Our top 6 spring produce picks

04 Sep 2020

Spring is officially here, which means barbecues, picnics and bowls of fresh leafy salads are just over the horizon. With asparagus, peas, leeks and zucchini now firmly on the menu we’re getting excited about creating fresh, crisp, market garden-inspired dishes. Spring’s bounty is endless, but here’s a look at our favourites. 

 

ASPARAGUS

When’s the best time to buy? From November onwards.

Why we love it? There’s a lot packed into one serve of asparagus (3-4 spears). It gives you a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs, 20 per cent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of folate, and a bunch of B-group vitamins. Like many green vegetables, it’s also high in fibre, fat free and low in kilojoules.

How to tell if it’s ripe? Go for stalks that are odourless and dry with tight tips. Avoid anything that looks limp or wilted.

How we like to use it? Here at The Black Truffle, we can’t get enough of in-season asparagus. We use it in many of our fresh salads, our home-made tarts and through some of our ready-made meals. For a real treat, check out our light, garden-inspired pan-fried gnocchi with asparagus, peas and lemon zest.

Did you know? White and green asparagus is acutally the same variety – green asparagus has simply been exposed to sunlight, which gives it its gorgeous, bright green hue. White is hand-cut while still underground.

 

BERRIES

When’s the best time to buy? Strawberries: from early spring. All other berries: late spring (from November).

Why we love them? Who doesn’t? From big, ruby strawberries to plump, juicy blueberries and everything in between (hello mulberries, blackberries and raspberries), fresh berries are spring’s natural dessert and they’re all just starting to come into season. Berries brighten up any dish, are juicy and decadent, and so very, very tasty. Better still, they’re a superfood – high in antioxidants, they can help ward off illness and reduce the signs of ageing.

How we like to use them? When they’re in season, we’ll put berries in as many of our delicious house-made muffins, cakes and slices as possible. We also love them in our favourite breakfast dish – continental bircher muesli (oats soaked in apple juice with cinnamon, honey, apple and blueberries).

Did you know? Batology isn’t actually the study of bats – it’s the study of blackberries!

 

PEAS

When’s the best time to buy? From September.

Why we love them? Did you know green peas help strengthen your bones? That’s thanks to their high levels of vitamin K and manganese. They’re also a great source of folate and like all green veggies, vitamin C too. Thankfully, frozen peas are just as nutritious – they’re picked at the height of their freshness then snap-frozen to ensure all the goodness gets locked in.

How to tell if they’re ripe? If you’re buying them fresh, choose firm, bright green pods with no signs of decay or wilting. And go for the smaller pods if possible – they’re often sweeter.

How we like to use them? At The Black Truffle we pop peas into many of our ready-made meals, and the tasty morsels in our grab-and-go cabinet. But perhaps the hero when it comes to spring peas is our dukkah-crusted pea, mint and fetta patty served with a side of minted yoghurt. The dukkah is made from toasted peppitas and secret spices and is seriously good.

Did you know? It is estimated that over 9,000 peas are eaten per person, per year in Britain.

 

GARLIC

When’s the best time to buy? Early spring (often from late September).

 Why we love it? Got high blood pressure? You’ve gotta get some gazza into ya! Studies have proven that two capsules of aged garlic extract, taken daily for 12 weeks, has a similar effect to prescribed blood pressure medication. It is thought that garlic reduces blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels (but please don’t ditch the meds without consulting your GP or specialist first!!!).

How to tell if it’s ripe? Choose garlic that is big, plump, dry and firm.

How we like to use it? In almost everything, which is why we’re so excited when garlic is in season. In fact, we grow our own garlic and pick it in late October. For a rich, robust garlic hit, grab a tub if our traditional Italian passata, made from tomato, tonnes of garlic and basil. It always flies off our shelves, but tastes even better when it’s made from freshly picked garlic from our garden.

Did you know? Garlic can be used to make glue? The sticky juice in garlic cloves is sometimes used as an adhesive for projects that involve delicate materials, such as glass.

 

LEEK

When’s the best time to buy? Actually, from late August, although the bulk of the best produce can be sourced from early September.

Why we love it? Besides being extremely versatile and a sweeter, more subtle substitute for onion, leeks are fat free, low in sodium and an excellent source of vitamins A, K and C, and folate.

How to tell if it’s ripe? Choose firm stalks with crisp thick white bottoms and fresh green tops. Avoid leeks with yellow or withered tops.

How we like to use it? We leek year-round, but during spring (when it’s at its best) we love adding it to our popular house-made tarts. Made from flaky, buttery Empire Pastry, try our leek and cheddar with spinach, or our creamy leek and brie.

Did you know? In Wales, the leek is one of the national emblems and is worn by Welsh men and women alongside the daffodil on St David’s Day.

 

ZUCCHINI

When’s the best time to buy? From November.

Why we love it? Zucchini is just so versatile! It’s delicious raw, sautéed, grilled, boiled (hello, zoodles) and baked into breads and sweet treats, like chocolate cake and brownie. Fat and salt-free, it’s also a great source of vitamin C, folate and iron.

How to tell if it’s ripe? Choose zucchinis with firm, slightly prickly, shiny skin with a nice vibrant colour. Avoid zucchinis with wrinkled skin, bruises or soft spots.

How we like to use it? Our absolute favourite zucchini dish is our super green crunch salad made using toasted pepitas, spinach, snow peas, broccoli and zucchini ribbons, marinated in a tangy lemon vinaigrette.

Did you know? One whole zucchini contains just 25 calories. Chop some into spears and add it to your next crudité platter!

 

 WHAT ELSE IS (STILL) IN SEASON IN SPRING?

Fruits: apricot, banana, grapefruit, guava, honeydew, lemon, lime, loquat, mandarin, mango, nectarine, orange, passionfruit, papaya, pineapple, rockmelon and watermelon.

Vegetables: Asian greens, artichoke, avocado, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, capsicum, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, mushroom, potato, pumpkin, radishes, rhubarb, silverbeet, snow peas, spinach, sweet corn and tomato.