If you enjoy eating seasonally, the first day of spring probably feels like Christmas to you. Now that April is here, it’s only a matter of time before the farmers’ market opens up and beautiful greens begin to proliferate our plates and fill our fridges!
Salads can be either fabulous or boring, depending on how they are made. A salad loaded with succulent berries, crisp and flavorful greens, crunchy nuts, pungent herbs, fresh cheeses and a tasty vinaigrette are a food lover’s dream, but flavorless iceberg lettuce paired with out-of-season tomatoes and a bland dressing is a whole different animal. Fill your plate with the highest quality food items and you’re bound to love eating these healthy dishes.
When it comes to consuming plant-based meals, seasonality is beneficial to the veggies’ flavor profile. No one would compare freshly picked tomatoes to the variety found in the grocery store come mid-December. Depending on where you live, you’ll want to use certain items on your spring salads.
Northeasterners may not enjoy native citrus, but they’ve got greens going for them: Arugula, often described as “peppery” in taste, grows throughout the Northeast region and can reach up to two feet in height. Come May, arugula will be plentiful here. Chard, various herbs, garlic, green onions, lettuce, morels, nettles, parsnips and rhubarb also start showing their faces come about mid-May, but you’ll have to wait until June or July to enjoy two of our favorite salad items: kale and kohlrabi.
- Local tip: This region is also blessed enough to cultivate beets between May and October. One of our favorite ways to prepare beets is to drizzle them in olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and bake for about an hour at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, simply peel off the skin, dice or slice these tasty treats, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and toss them with your salad.
Southerners are known for their comfort foods, but they can make a mean spring salad, too. Collard greens are seasonal here year-round, but a variety of delicious produce thrives during the Southern spring. In addition to staples like asparagus, beets and broccoli, this region enjoys items like cabbage, sweet onions, cauliflower and lettuce during the spring months.
- Local tip: Those who live in the American South can enjoy seasonal sweetness in their spring salads – this is the citrus region after all! From topping your greens with flavorful blueberries (May) to adding some tang with grapefruit and oranges, Southern spring salads are all about fruit.
The Midwest is a big place, so seasonality here is largely dependent on how far north you live. As a general rule, the Midwest spring boasts favorites like arugula, cabbage, asparagus, carrots, chard, herbs like parsley and cilantro, garlic, mushrooms and morels, parsnips and radishes.
- Local tip: Because this region is so diverse (it encompasses both parts of Kentucky and chilly northern Minnesota), one of the few things you can count on finding at almost all Midwestern farmers’ markets is herbs. Some of our favorite herbs for spring salads are basil, parsley and the ultimate stable of spring: dandelion (you won’t even need to buy this one!).
The Southwest boasts warm sunshine all year long, so it’s no surprise that salads thrive in this region at all times of year. Nonetheless, there are a few staples that come out to say hello as the popular avocado says goodbye for the warm months.
Talk about delicious salad toppings! Native spring foods here include apricots, asparagus, black and blueberries, celery (which starts to taper off come mid-April), cucumbers, green beans, nectarines and mint.
- Local tip: Melons are plentiful here, especially during the late spring months. Fruit salads are a go-to lunch item for many Southwesterners: Just chop up some melon, add blueberries and blackberries and top of with a sprig of mint, and you have a fresh, healthy meal!
The Pacific Northwest’s wet winters give way to a plentiful harvest of fresh spring ingredients come April – this is just one of the reasons we love this unique climate. Some of our favorite Pacific Northwestern salad ingredients are arugula, beets, basil and other herbs, cabbage, boysenberries (which start to reach their peak in June), chard, cherries, fiddleheads, fava beans, green onions, kale and lettuce.
- Local tip: If you’re looking for beautiful presentation and great taste, this is the region for you. Edible flowers thrive in the Pacific Northwest! Some of our favorite fresh flower petals to add to salads are pansy, carnation, nasturtium, and calendula.
A salad dressing for every climate
Balsamic vinaigrette with olive oil and a touch of pepper make for a delightful dressing that goes well with any salad. To create a fabulous dressing, simply reduce a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over low heat. Remove from heat and whisk in some olive oil, with about a 3:1 ration of olive oil to vinegar, depending on your taste. Stir in a bit of sugar (also to taste) and you have a lovely dressing to top off any healthy salad.
Your Turn: What are your favorite seasonal salad combinations?