Well we’ve made it through the busy holiday season and spring has sprung! This is the perfect time to take advantage of all the healthy benefits spring provides us. Not only does this time of year inspire us to get outside and be active, but it also brings us a variety of colorful, flavorful, and nutritious fruits and vegetables to add to our diet. Whether you plan to plant your own garden or make a visit to your local farmers market, here are just a few of the many healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables to look for that are in their prime during the spring season.
Asparagus – The peak season for enjoying ripe asparagus is from April to June. For the best taste, make sure the stalks are odorless and the tips are dry and tight; avoid wilted or limp stalks. In order to keep your asparagus fresh, trim the tough edges of the stalks, wrap them in a moist paper towel, and place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days. Depending on your preference, asparagus can be grilled, roasted, steamed, or boiled. There are a number of benefits this vegetable can bring to one’s diet. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and C along with being a low fat, low carbohydrate option to include in a healthy diet.
Honeydew – This fruit is a variety of muskmelon and the sweetest of all melons. It is available year round but its peak season falls between May and October. When trying to choose the tastiest melon, look for those that are well-rounded, have a waxy but not fuzzy surface, and are heavy for their size. Avoid melons that are too firm, too soft, green in color or those that have dark blemishes on the skin. Uncut melon can be kept at room temperature for 2-4 days or until ripe. Cut melons should be placed in a covered container and refrigerated for no more than three days. Honeydew is a great source of vitamin C and a healthy choice for any diet.
Rhubarb – Rhubarb is considered to be an early sign of spring. Until the 1940s it was considered a vegetable, but was then reclassified as a fruit when US customs officials, confounded by the foreign food, decided it should be categorized according to the way it was eaten. When picking out your rhubarb, look for flat stalks that are not curled or limp; deep red stalks are sweeter and richer. Also, the leaves should never be eaten. Keep rhubarb refrigerated in a plastic bag and use within a few days. This fruit is fat free, low in calories and is also a good source of vitamin C.
Avocados – Avocados are widely considered vegetables, since they are commonly used in salads. However, they’re surprisingly a fruit that just tastes similar to a vegetable. Although the prime season for avocados is late winter/early spring, they are often readily available in markets year-round. When choosing avocados, look for ones with firm skin and no soft spots. Store unripe avocados in a paper bag at room temperature. Refrigerate when ripe for 2-3 days. This popular fruit is known to provide a number of health benefits. They are the highest fruit source of vitamin E, which is an essential vitamin that protects against many diseases and helps maintains overall health. They are also a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Enjoy avocados on a salad (recipe included) as research suggests the healthy monounsaturated fats present in avocados aid in increasing absorption of antioxidants from leafy greens!
2 avocados – peeled, pitted and diced
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, combine avocados, onion, bell pepper, tomato, cilantro and lime juice. Gently toss until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with feta or parmesan cheese if desired. Enjoy with some warm pita chips or a few corn tortillas.