Farmer Lee loves fresh asparagus so much that he could eat it three times a day in season (then lust for it the rest of the year) – and that was apparently also true of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. He adored asparagus and, according to Modern Farmer, he “organized elite military units to procure it for him. The famed Asparagus Fleets made rounds in the empire to import the best varietals back to Rome, while the fastest runners were employed to carry fresh spears high in the Alps, where it could be frozen for later use.” When Caesar wanted to get someone moving, he would shout, “Velocius quam asparagi conquantur!” This translated into “Faster than cooking asparagus!”
Because asparagus is so moist, cooking times need to be short (thus the Roman saying). Asparagus is versatile enough to use for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and can be grilled, seared, roasted, dehydrated, juiced and more; used in custards and white sorbets – and, try this. Separate eggs and cook the whites into a long sheet. Cut ribbons of egg whites, then tightly wrap the asparagus in the ribbons before topping them with a sauce made from the yolks.
Asparagus is available in tiny sizes all the way to jumbo-sized, in multiple colors beside green, including pink and purple. Then there is luscious fresh white asparagus with it flavorful notes of sweet cabbage or corn. And, if you’re fan of this vegetable, like Farmer Lee is (and apparently Caesar Augustus, as well!), note that on May 7, the Culinary Vegetable Institute is showcasing asparagus.
Rhubarb is increasingly in demand, in part because of the upswing in use of sour/tart foods. This isn’t, of course, the first time this lovely vegetable has been so in demand. In fact, in 1837, the plant “truly took the English-speaking world by storm” when a new variety was served at Queen Victoria’s crowning. This created a “long and passionate love affair between the Victorians and rhubarb,” one that, as far as we’re concerned, never should have ended.
Because rhubarb is excellent in season – and not so good out of season – consider fermenting some. You’ll enhance the sourness and the result will be crunchy like a pickle without the vinegar. You can also juice rhubarb, blanch it, grill it, dice it into salads, or turn it into a syrup/glaze. Instead of peeling it, try pulling off the skin by starting at the base and curling off its edges.
Mr. Frye’s Rhubarb is a variety of choice, with its delicious flavor, long and wide stalks, and brilliant colors ranging from light green to bright red. Discover more about this amazing plant:
When you make a dish with the spring crops of strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus, you have perfectly captured a moment in time.
Our product specialists know our vegetables, microgreens, herbs and edible flowers inside and out, up and down, and one of them – Brenda Shick – calls our fresh lettuce her favorite product, bar none. Here’s what Brenda has to say: “There is so much flavor in our lettuces and so much variety and sizing available to chefs. Too often, people settle for bagged products with little to no flavor, when the fresh, delicious lettuce that we grow is ten times better.”
Fresh lettuce comes in many appealing varieties, with Red Rose Romaine and Merlot Romaine among the favorites of Chef Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute. And, when you use fresh, sustainably farmed lettuce, it isn’t just a foundation for other foods – it is a delicious and nutritious food all by itself. You can grill it, blanch it, wilt it and so much more. Challenge of the day: go beyond salad!\
The ancestors of the English pea were probably grown in the Nile Delta area, according to The Telegraph, going back nearly 7,000 years. Early peas were even discovered in Egyptian tombs, apparently so tasty that rulers wanted to take them along to nosh on in the royal afterlife.
Today’s English peas are mildly sweet, earthy with flavoring that is true to raw pea. Leaves and stems alike are tender and delicious and, adamant as Brenda was about lettuce, she also listed two other top favorites, and one of them is the delectable English pea. The entire plant is edible, including the blooms, pods and stems, and they can be used in soups and sauces; they can be juiced and even turned into ice cream by adding dry ice and the English peas to a food processor. As the season winds down and the peas get starchier, grind them, roll them and bake them into gluten-free, vibrant green crackers.
Chives have existed for more than 5,000 years in Asia and Europe, as this article from The Spruce explains. But, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that people realized they could cultivate them as food – and, even then, people didn’t necessarily realize the value in the blooms.
Chive blossoms are beautiful purple flowers, ideal for adding subtle onion flavoring to soups, salads and much more, while adding a burst of colorful garnish to the plate. They’re mild, juicy and crunchy, and Brenda says that one of her favorite times of year is when chive blooms are available. When you add salt and pepper to a dish, also add a chive bloom. This is an excellent third element of flavor for any dish that supports alliums.
Interest in sorrel is soaring! We reported on this sour food trend in depth, with multiple chefs sharing how they use fresh sorrel in their menus. Plum Lucky Sorrel has a mildly sour, lightly nutty flavor and a pleasing crunch, with the blooms adding beauty to your plates. It pairs nicely with several other items on this year’s spring top ten list (chives, peas and spinach), as well as chervil, leeks and onions.
It’s an excellent choice to cut the richness of sugar and fat in cakes, custards and ice cream, and it’s also a marvelous way to cut the saltiness of savory dishes. A classic French dish features salmon and sorrel, with the sorrel being a delicious and satisfying replacement for lemon.
Long appreciated in Asian cuisine, pea tendrils – both gold and green – are appearing in increasing numbers of dishes in the United States, and for good reason. The flavor is mildly sweet and earthy, true to raw pea. Leaves and stem alike are delicious. Have you considered pairing them with carrots? With basil? Green pea tendrils add more weight and body to a dish, so are ideal for salads. Gold pea tendrils have more height, getting to be eight inches long, so they work well as little skewers that can be cut to the desired height.
Calvin pea tendrils are an elegant choice, tender and less weighty than the other tendrils. You can pick them apart into clusters and they still represent the pea well. These tendrils were cross-pollinated by Calvin Lamborn, inventor of the sugar snap pea. He is currently in his 80s, inquisitive, creative and innovative – important personality traits that led to the production of a pea tendril with tightly curled fronds and incredibly sweet leaves. The texture? Silky. The color? Vibrantly green.
Find out more about Calvin, the person, who proves that “age is just a number and doesn’t define our ability to come up with brilliant new ideas no matter what stage we are at in life.”
When you think of spring, you almost certainly think of gorgeously riotous colors as flowers bloom after a long winter, right? Edible flowers allow that beauty to bloom on the plate, resembling confetti at a birthday party. Our mixed edible flowers are available in hues across the rainbow. Flavors run the spectrum from sweet to bitter, and from herbaceous to aromatic and then to citrus. No matter what texture you need for your dish, we’ve got it: firm, soft, succulent, fuzzy, waxy and crispy. Need whole flowers? They’re in there. Just petals? They’re in there, too. Mixed edible flowers are an excellent way to make monochromatic desserts – such as chocolate ones – spring to life, bringing the entire look together.
Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio have found that purslane has the highest amount of "heart-healthy omega-3 fats of any edible plant." What we’ve found is that purslane rosettes are succulent with a mildly citrusy, juicy lemon flavor that adds zest and diversity to stir-fries, salads and much more. The golden lime-yellow leaves and stems add variation in color and they have a really nice crunch.
In the wild, purslane can have an okra-like texture and these rosettes avoid that aggressive mouth feel. They are both cleansing and earthy on the palate and work well with clams, mussels, oysters and fish, among other dishes.
People have been growing spinach for more than a thousand years, with a James Beard award winning author sharing how it was once known as the “captain of leafy greens.” Spinach can be as versatile as a potato, served raw, dried, fried, juiced, in a sauce and more. This ingredient can soften the edges of a strong primary ingredient, as well, such as a carrot top emulsion.
There are many delicious varieties of fresh spinach, sweet and buttery with tender textures, and you can try a spinach mixture to see which ones you like best.
Finally, take a look at Farmer Lee Jones and Bob, Jr. as they discuss ice spinach.
If you’ve heard of ice wine where frozen grapes make a super sweet drink, then you can already relate to the concept behind ice spinach. As the spinach freezes at night and thaws by day, it gains the sweetness of a Red Delicious apple (and, yes. We’ve tested that!). If you look at the roots of ice spinach, you can see how it’s turning pink. That’s the highest concentration of nutrients in the plant and eating that would be like snacking on candy – and it’s also so nutritious and calcium rich. Ice spinach is deep and rich in color, almost seaweed green, and you’ll have to watch the video to listen to its crisp texture, so full of life, body, energy – and, therefore, flavor.
Questions? You can contact us online about our wide variety of spring crops today.