Edible Treats of Spring Gardens

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Healthy Living | 0 comments


This Fresh Asparagus with Red Onion and Pecorino Cheese salad is even better the next day!

by Marlena Pecora, L.Ac, LMT

It’s spring and that means our menus often shift from the oven to the grill, from heavy to light, and includes fresh, locally grown seasonal garden treats. Farmer’s markets may be slow to populate their bins and baskets but by now you should be seeing spinach, asparagus, rhubarb and in New England—even fiddleheads. Whole foods are a hallmark of a sound wellness approach.

In traditional Chinese medicine, spring is viewed as the season of rebirth and new growth. Spring belongs to the wood element and dominates the energetics of the liver and gallbladder. By appropriately adapting to the changing climate in the spring we become less susceptible to seasonal health problems. The naturally sweet and pungent flavors of spring can help regulate the Qi (vital force) throughout the body.

Spring Market Vegetables:


Spinach with its dark leafy greens can be small (perfect for eating raw in salads) or large, which can have a tougher texture and be best suited to be eaten steamed or sauted. Because it is one of the foods on the list of foods containing the highest amount of pesticide residues, be sure to include it on your list of vegetables that you want to be sure are organically grown. Add spinach to pastas, soups, sandwiches and salads—even on pizza and in omelets!  Spinach has an extremely high nutritional value and is rich in antioxidants. It is a good source of vitamins A, B2, C and K, and also contains magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium and potassium.


These gorgeous green spears are an early spring delicacy, their season generally is considered to run from April through May but can extend through July. The perennial vegetable has adorned backyard gardens and been the bragging right of many a gardener. Eaten raw in a crudite platter, steamed as a side dish, sauteed with olive oil and fresh lemon, or roasted and even grilled, this versatile vegetable deserves its popularity. Health benefits: excellent source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals and it is packed with antioxidants.

Try this Fresh Asparagus with Red Onion and Pecorino Cheese Recipe — it’s one of Marlena Pecora‘s favorites: “I love this really simple spring (chopped) salads. It’s raw, crunchy, tangy and a delicious accompaniment to BBQ and summer foods. Or I like sweet potato chips to scoop it up with! The key is to chop everything really really small, make sure to use red wine vinegar, and let it sit for a couple hours to meld the flavors!” She also notes that she’s not a huge advocate of dairy and although the recipe calls for Pecorino Romano (a Sheeps milk cheese; easier for the body to digest), folks can substitute with nutritional yeast, which has a cheesy flavor. Experiment with the recipe by adding fresh peas and herbs…


A New England treasure, rhubarb is often paired with strawberries, making one think of it as a fruit, but it is actually a vegetable. Its tart flavor and its customary uses also lend to its reputation of a fruit classification. Rhubarb is especially appreciated because it’s one of the first edibles to appear in the spring garden. Rhubarb enhances flavor when combined with strawberries, raspberries, apples, and other fruits. Rhubarb also makes a wonderful sauce for chicken, venison, halibut and salmon. Muffins and tarts benefit from a handful of diced rhubarb, which holds moisture. Health benefits: Low in saturated fat and sodium and very low in cholesterol, rhubarb is a good source of magnesium, dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, potassium and manganese.


Fiddlehead ferns are one of the delicious telltale signs of spring. While there are a few varieties, the most edible and the one most commonly found in markets are ostrich ferns. These tightly wound, disc-shaped vegetables are the curled fronds of a young fern, which were harvested during spring before the frond has a chance to mature and uncurl. They have a bright green color, snappy texture and a grassy, woodsy taste. They should not be eaten raw; steam or saute and enjoy alone, in a salad or in a risotto dish. Health benefits: Fiddleheads contain various vitamins and minerals, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are a source of antioxidants and dietary fiber. They are low in sodium, but rich in potassium.

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