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Spring Produce Holds Higher Ground

Spring Produce
Holds Higher Ground

Our guide to what's in season for spring…with recipes that provide fresh solutions.

An impressive six of the 10 trends highlighted in the National Restaurant Association's 2013 "What's Hot?" Chef Survey revolve around local sourcing, sustainability, nutrition, health and produce—clearly, chefs are paying close attention to fresh produce. The number of farmers' markets has exploded from 4,385 five years ago to 7,175 in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Clearly, consumers are paying closing attention, too. Highlighting the season's best does not require a chalkboard menu, changing daily to reflect what's pulled from the earth that morning. It does require that chefs pay attention to what's in season, highlighting that fresh produce on their menu in creative, delicious ways.

Spring into Your Menu

artichokes

fast facts—baby artichokes require little prep and are great in salads and pastas; the part that is cooked is the flower of the plant

culinary tips—once prepped for service, hold in acidulated water to prevent browning; add garlic, lemon juice or cider vinegar to water artichokes are cooked in for added flavor

nutritional profile—good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium, folate and magnesium

asparagus

fast fact—challenging to pair with wines, the California Asparagus Commission recommends medium-dry whites, like Chenin Blanc and Fumé Blanc

culinary tip—keep moist until ready to use

nutritional profile—good source of potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamin

fava beans

fast fact—favas go by many names: broad beans, Windsor beans, pigeon beans and butter beans

culinary tip—try puréeing them for a spring fava-bean dip (cooked favas, cream, butter, seasoning)

nutritional profile—very good source of folate; good source of dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus and copper

fiddleheads

fast fact—named after the ornamentation on violins, these beauties are the uncurled fronds of a young Ostrich fern

culinary tips—boil for at least 8 minutes; create a pesto using fiddleheads instead of basil

nutritional profile—very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin, iron, magnesium, potassium; good source of protein and zinc; source of Omega 3 and Omega 6

green garlic

fast fact—stronger than green onion but milder than garlic

culinary tips—use both the bulb and stalk of green garlic; add to stir fries, soups, sauces and purées

nutritional profile—very good source of vitamin C and vitamin B6; good source of calcium

leeks

fast fact—flavor profile between a scallion and a cucumber

culinary tips—instead of discarding tougher dark green leaves, use in bouquet garni; look for ramps (wild leeks) in early spring

nutritional profile—very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and folate; good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium

mint

fast fact—the United States produces more than 70% of the world's supply of peppermint and spearmint¹

culinary tips—add to a pesto for spring flavor; supply your bar & beverage program with fresh mint—mojitos, mint juleps and iced teas

nutritional profile—very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and magnesium

morels

fast facts—the majority of these spring mushrooms are wild; these intensely earthy mushrooms should always be cooked

culinary tip—with long caps like honeycombs, the larger ones are perfect for stuffing

nutritional profile—very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, iron, zinc and copper

new potatoes (aka baby potatoes)

fast fact—not a separate variety, but young versions of potato varieties that boast thinner skin

culinary tip—more perishable than mature potatoes, use within a few days of purchase

nutritional profile—very good source of vitamin C; good source of vitamin B6 and potassium

pea greens

fast fact—pea greens (or pea shoots) cook down in volume by up to 90%

culinary tips—add their long, green ribbons to soups for color and texture; mix them into salad greens for a distinctively bright pea flavor

nutritional profile—excellent source of vitamin C; very good source of vitamin A and folic acid

radishes

fast facts—explore different varieties with beautiful names from the White Icicle and Plum Purple to the French Breakfast and Gala radish

culinary tip—most of the radish's pepperiness comes from the skin—peel it for a milder profile

nutritional profile—very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate and potassium; good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6 and calcium

snap peas

fast fact—unlike snow peas, snap peas have pods that are round, not flat

culinary tip—save the labor of stringing snap peas by sourcing young, tender ones

nutritional profile—very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin and folate; good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phospate and potassium

spring greens

fast fact—favored for its tender greens and varying colors, spring greens are usually a blend of sweet, spicy and bitter

culinary tip—combine your own blend of spring greens for extra menu interest

nutritional profile—very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C; good source of iron

strawberries

fast facts—strawberries are a super food, loaded with antioxidants

culinary tip—roast strawberries to concentrate flavor for jams or sauces

nutritional profile—excellent source of vitamin C; very good source of dietary fiber; good source of folate

zucchini

fast fact—also known by its French name, courgette

culinary tip—menu stuffed zucchini blossoms for dramatic plate presentation

nutritional profile—high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamin A

Favorite Spring Recipes

Fun Trivia for Curious Culinary Minds

Fava Beans

Sustaining Sicilians during a famine, these "lucky beans," are blessed on March 19 in Sicily: "Keep a lucky bean in your purse and you will never go broke. Keep it in your pantry and you will never go hungry."

Fava Beans

Fiddleheads

Tide Head, New Brunswick, Canada, bills itself as the "fiddlehead capital of the world."

Fiddleheads

Mint

According to wisconsinmint.org, early Romans believed that the scent of mint would stop a person from losing his temper. Royal ambassadors carried mint sprigs in their pockets.

Mint

Radish

In ancient Greece, radishes were so revered that gold replicas were made.²

Radish
Spring Seasonal Produce