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3 Short-Seasoned Spring Vegetables to Treasure

Fiddleheads, pea shoots, garlic scapes

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“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own,” Charles Dickens once said. In springtime, as the earth warms and plants send up tentative new growth, I think of this idea and eagerly anticipate three spring delicacies that embody the delicate gifts of the season.

These vegetal treasures are precious in how short-seasoned they are; in most places, they are only available at markets or in your garden for a few weeks. Their fleeting presence only reinforces how special they are, and how much richer life is when you focus on the positive aspects of each season of the year.

1)  Fiddleheads
These curly greens, which are the furled fronts of young fern plants, are simple to steam and enjoy warm as a side dish, added to omelets or pasta dishes, or chilled and tossed in salads. They can even be pickled, which extends their shelf life. Fiddleheads are nutrient-rich, and they have an earthy flavor that I can only describe as “it tastes green.” 

2)  Garlic Scapes
Garlic plants emerge with the other spring bulbs, but they are not ready to harvest until the summer is drawing to a close. Hard-necked garlic’s tall, coarse greenery is too fibrous to eat, but in early spring, the plants send up slim, twisty stems with arrow-like tips. These “scapes” are actually the flower of the plant—and the stems are delicious chopped up and sautéed as a mellow cousin of the bracing bulb. Garlic scapes are also delicious in pestos, in salad dressings, or minced and tossed with pasta.

3)  Pea Shoots
Like garlic, pea plants have an early spring gift to share while we try to wait patiently for the plump pods to come. Pea shoots are the tendrils of the pea plant, tender and snake-like as they reach greedily toward the sun. Snipped off, they are your new favorite salad green, lovely and crunchy on sandwiches or delicious stirred into soups. As a bonus, pea shoots are loaded with protein, vitamin C and other nutrients.

What are your favorite special spring beauties?

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