There’s a predominant color in our current landscape, and while it may come in different hues, it’s still a very vibrant green. Grapevines are bursting with new buds, leaves are filling out trees, and veggie starts are burgeoning from the ground up.
Green vegetables are at their peak in spring and are the quintessential nutritious powerhouse in every form. Arugula and asparagus are in good company with snap peas and watercress. Each one of these tender vittles has a place in our meal plan as often as kale in our morning smoothie.
Possibly the best part of enjoying this spring bounty is flavor. Big on delicious and light on the waistline. The options for recipes are endless, and did I mention the health benefits? Here are examples of what’s in season now:
Arugula: looks like lettuce but is actually from the same family as broccoli. Rich in phytonutrients that may reduce the risk of certain cancers. One cup delivers a good dose of vitamin C and calcium. That’s right — milk isn’t your only source.
Artichokes: high in fiber, iron and calcium. Supports digestion as well as blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Also known to lower cholesterol – but that’s without the butter or mayo.
Asparagus: promotes a healthy liver, skin, kidneys and bones. It’s a good veggie for elimination diets as it acts as a diuretic. (Celery has similar benefits, as it’s largely made up of water.)
Dandelion greens: the essence of spring and one of my personal favorites. Dandelions are a bitter green that mellow as they’re cooked. They help with skin conditions, purify the blood and offer detoxifying benefits.
Fennel: a super anti-oxidant that helps fight cancer, bad breath and indigestion.
Garlic: while the bulbs are stored for future use, green garlic is delightful to use in sautes, risotto and pesto. Garlic has innumerable health properties, from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to helping prevent heart disease.
Kale: it’s popular for good reasons, but don’t just stop here. Dark leafy greens of all kinds (Swiss chard, spinach, collards …) are high in calcium, which in turn helps prevent bone loss; plus fiber and beta-carotene for the eyes.
Parsley: another cleansing green that helps release toxins from the body. Parsley is also high in iron, building blood and stimulating brain activity.
Watercress: recently Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo extolled the virtues of this underrated green. It is the king of vitamin C and a good source of iodine for those with low thyroid activity. It also acts as a natural antibiotic and helps fight respiratory infections.
Asparagus and Cheddar Almond Sandwich
The secret to this flavorful sandwich is the special sauce made of toasted almonds, roasted garlic and some of the asparagus. The roasting method allows you to cook the garlic in only 20 minutes. Note: A small head of garlic yields about 2 Tbsp. roasted garlic.
2 small heads garlic
1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 slices rye bread
1½ cups grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Separate garlic cloves, and place on baking sheet. Roast 20 minutes, or until skins begin to brown and garlic turns soft. Cool, then squeeze garlic from skin of each clove. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
Toss asparagus in 1 Tbsp. oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt. Place in single layer on baking sheet and roast 4 to 8 minutes (grilled is also a nice option). Cool. Trim ends so asparagus are same length as width of bread. Reserve ends.
Put 1/4 cup almonds in food processor or blender and chop fine. Add roasted garlic, reserved asparagus ends, lemon juice, remaining oil and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and puree until smooth.
Place bread slices on baking sheet. Spread each slice with 2 Tbsp. pureed almond mixture. Lay 4 or 5 asparagus spears on each bread slice, and top with 1/4 cup cheese. Broil sandwiches about 3 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Sprinkle sandwiches with remaining almonds.