You can't go wrong eating seasonal foods — especially in spring when some of the most mouthwatering fruits and veggies are hitting the shelves. Not only does produce taste best when eaten within a couple days of harvest, but eating fresh also tends to be cheaper. After all, these goods don't need to be stored or transported before they reach your plate.
Market prices vary between regions and sometimes even between local markets. However, you can generally get the most for your money — and your health — by eating fresh. Here are some foods to help you stay physically and fiscally fit this spring.
- Out of Season: $12.99 per pound
- In Season: $1.52 per bulb
Fennel is one of the most underused and underrated vegetables — not because it doesn't have many uses, but because some cooks don't use it as creatively as they could. Fennel tends to play a supporting role, appearing in numerous salads and slaws. However, it makes for a killer main dish when you apply a little cooking imagination.
Slow-roasted fennel with olives and sun-dried tomatoes, fennel risotto and fennel gratin with gruyere are just a few dishes that take fennel to a higher level. Plus, this herb has a well-rounded nutrition profile. With beneficial amounts of vitamin C, folate, fiber, calcium, magnesium and iron, it helps fill out a nutrient-dense diet.
2. Spring Onions
- Out of Season: $2.62 per bunch
- In Season: $1.90 per bunch
You can't heap enough praise on the allium family — garlic, leeks and spring onions all hold important places in the culinary kingdom. Spring onions are even part of one nation's cultural identity. Every year, Catalans celebrate their arrival with calçotada, an early-spring festival in Valls. Celebrants enjoy locally grown, fire-roasted spring onions served with romesco sauce and red wine.
Spring onions share a nutrition profile with other late-season onions and are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, manganese and potassium.
- Out of Season: $1.40 per pound
- In Season: $1.20 per pound
If you've only enjoyed rhubarb in the eponymous pie, prepare to be blown away when you put it to use in cocktails, savory dishes and quick breads. Herb-crusted pork with rhubarb barbecue sauce, strawberry rhubarb muffins and rhubarb sidecars are just a few examples of dishes that make the most of this plant's sour taste and delightful pinkish hue.
Rhubarb is also a good source of magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and vitamin K.
- Out of Season: $3.79 per pound
- In Season: $1.75 per pound
When you get a hold of some freshly harvested French breakfast radishes, you need little more than butter and salt to make a mouthwatering side. However, raw is only one way to eat this root vegetable. Cooking tempers radishes' spiciness and plumps them with flavor. This spring, try radishes braised, roasted, sautéed or grilled.
As a bonus, radishes provide respectable daily allowances of riboflavin, calcium, copper, vitamin C and fiber.
5. Fava Beans
- Out of Season: $14.40 per pound
- In Season: $3.99 per pound
Make the most of low fava bean prices this spring, and take a culinary trip around the world while you're at it. Try them in the style of Egypt's national dish, ful medames and stew, with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. If you want to go the South American route, whip up some sopa de habas, made from tomatoes, garlic, onions and mashed and fried favas.
Fava beans are packed with protein — almost 13 grams per cup — and have enough thiamin, folate, riboflavin and vitamin K to make a significant dent in your daily nutritional requirements.
6. Broccoli Rabe
- Out of Season: $2.67 per bunch
- In Season: $1 per bunch
Broccoli rabe's relationship with the large, flowering-head broccoli seen in every vegetable medley starts and ends with its first name. In fact, rabe has a closer relationship with turnips than traditional broccoli, so don't try serving this spectacular spring food raw. You need to cook rabe for 20 to 40 minutes to enjoy its pleasant bitterness.
Rabe has a whopping 396 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin A and a colossal 1398 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin K per bunch — all the more reason to make it a new seasonal food favorite.
7. Collard Greens
- Out of Season: N/A
- In Season: $2.63 per pound
Delicious when braised with ham shank and mouthwatering when sautéed with onions and garlic, collard greens are a Southern dining favorite that's also good for you. Along with vitamins A, K and B6, this cruciferous veggie boasts folate and antioxidant properties.
This spring, put collard greens on a pedestal by prepping dishes like pancetta, stuffed collard greens with pine nuts and Thai-style collard slaw. The price for out-of-season greens wasn't available at the time of publication, but shoppers can definitely save money by purchasing this product January through April.
8. Fiddlehead Ferns
- Out of Season: $37.33 per pound
- In Season: $3 per pound
Fiddlehead ferns are known for their savory flavor and tightly wound shape. And while they're usually found in markets in mid-spring, the growing season for this frond is brief and unpredictable, so you might have trouble locating some at your local market. If you are fortunate enough to come across a few pounds at a good price, buy as much as you can. Fiddleheads freeze well after blanching.
Fiddleheads have a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, including 120 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin A, 16 percent of the daily allowance of iron and 44 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin C.
- Out of Season: $6.32 per pound
- In Season: $3 per pound
Calling radicchio red cabbage does a disservice to this vegetable, which features tender, merlot-colored leaves and a nutty, sweet flavor when grilled. Unlike most lettuce varieties, radicchio — especially the Treviso type — holds up well to open-flame grilling, which brings out its sweetness. To grill radicchio, simply slice the heads in half lengthwise and cook until lightly charred and tender. Add a drizzle of quality extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of coarse salt, and you're ready to eat.
Inexpensive and high in vitamin K, phenolic flavonoid antioxidants and B-complex vitamins, radicchio is a healthy spring dish that's also easy on your wallet.
- Out of Season: $7.35 per pound
- In Season: $3.92 per pound
As delicious in a simple salad as it is in more creative dishes, like homemade spinach pasta dough, spinach and ricotta pancakes and spinach and sun-dried tomato pesto, spinach offers impressive nutritional benefits. Along with prodigious amounts of zinc and niacin, the leafy veggie boasts iron, B vitamins and minerals.
To make homemade spinach pasta dough, sauté, puree and drain 6 ounces of spinach and combine it with 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk and 2.5 cups of flour in a food processor.
11. Snow Peas
- Out of Season: $1.60 per pound
- In Season: $1.30 per pound
Easy to prep and quick to cook, a handful of snow peas turns just about any soup, pasta or salad into a verdant, textural delight. Try snow peas as a dish on its own, too. Quickly sauté a few cups of snow peas in some good extra virgin olive oil, add a secondary ingredient, such as toasted almonds or pine nuts, and finish with a flourish of cheese. You'll have a quick-and-easy side that goes with just about any main dish.
Snow peas have your back when it comes to eating a balanced diet, too. High in vitamins A, B6, C, K and folate, snow peas fit into any eating plan.
12. Purple Asparagus
- Out of Season: $8.65 per pound
- In Season: $5.29 per pound
Another food favorite you'll want to stock up on this spring, purple asparagus resembles its green and white cousins in appearance but boasts a flavor all its own. Purple asparagus has a less-fibrous stalk and about 20 percent higher sugar content than other varieties, giving it a taste reminiscent of almonds, barley and artichokes.
Purple asparagus' higher sugar content doesn't detract from its overall nutrition profile, though. The stalk has only 27 calories per cup, along with respectable amounts of iron and vitamins A and C.
- Out of Season: 43 cents per bunch
- In Season: 55 cents per bunch
Many cooks treat parsley as a simple garnish, sprinkling it atop meals with little thought for its unique flavor. However, parsley is a lot more than a dish decoration. In addition to the classics, such as tabbouleh and English pesto, parsley plays strong supporting roles in gnocchi dough, Canarian watercress, parsley stew and even ice cream.
Parsley packs a lot of vitamin K in those little curly leaves — 1230 percent of the daily recommended allowance per cup. The herb also boasts 101 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin A and 133 percent of the allowance of vitamin C.
14. Baby Artichokes
- Out of Season: $7.40 per bunch
- In Season: $3.98 per bunch
Baby artichokes are quite different from their traditional armored brethren. This veggie has edible chokes and stems and fewer of the tough outer leaves normal artichokes are known for. The hearts, on the other hand, have all the savory-sweetness of fully grown chokes, plus a touch of butteriness. Baby chokes require little prep and respond well to steaming, sautéing, grilling and roasting.
One baby artichoke has 12 percent of your daily allowance of fiber, 11 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin A and 2 grams of protein — not bad for just 25 calories.
15. Salad Turnips
- Out of Season: $4 per pound
- In Season: $2.27 per pound
Salad turnips, also called hakurei turnips, are to regular turnips as baby artichokes are to fully grown globe chokes: smaller, sweeter and more versatile. Eat the raw variety dipped in a little melted butter for a savory snack or opt to prepare them braised or roasted.
Salad turnips share the nutritional profile of other members of the turnip family, offering a respectable amount of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, manganese and phosphorus.