Spring is finally here! There is no better feeling than the warm rays of sunshine on your face after a long, grey winter.
The transition from winter to spring also marks the beginning of Ontario's growing season. Our Farm Manager Hannah and Assistant Farm Manager Julianne have already begun seedlings in our greenhouses as well as planting in the fields, and farmers across the province are doing the same.
As we patiently wait for the first harvest, our members are still enjoying local apples, potatoes, carrots, onions, sprouts, watercress, pea shoots, celeriac, black radishes, and more (thank you greenhouses and cold storage!)
Here are some spring crops we're excited to see in our bags soon:
Did you know? Aparagus takes three years to grow from seed to harvest! On top of that, farmers need to keep a close eye because there is only a 2-3 week window of opportunity to harvest this much coveted spring crop. Learn more about asparagus here.
Season: Late May to early June
Fun Facts: Asparagus is more diverse then you think! This spring veggie is available in purple and white varieties as well. White asparagus is actually just green asparagus but grown without sunlight to prevent chlorophyll development. Fans of white asparagus enjoy it for it's sweeter flavour. Purple asparagus will turn green once cooked, and is often thicker than it's counterparts and contains more antioxidant flavanoids due to it's deep violet colour.
Health Benefits: Asparagus is rich in antioxidants (most famously rutin and quercitin) and ranks high in vitamin K, folate, copper, vitamin B1, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C, and vitamin E. No wonder this superfood is linked to reducing hangovers, preventing memory impairments, and was deemed King of the Vegetables.
Store: Eat within a few days of purchasing. You can also fill a jar with about an inch of water and store the asparagus standing upright (ideally covered with a plastic bag) for about a week.
Prepare: Use your hands to snap off the woody butts of the asparagus (you can save them four soup stock!) We recommend a simple method of preparation to highlight the amazing flavour of asparagus - steamed or tossed on the BBQ with a bit of oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Radishes are known to be among the easiest of veggies to grow (and one of the most underrated!). They require sun and well-drained soil, and can be harvested as early as three weeks after planting! Click here for more information on gardening with radishes.
Season: May to November
Fun Facts: Some forms of radishes can grow up to three feet long and weigh up to 100 lbs! Although we'll have some pretty delicious radishes coming in, don't expect that size in your next bag. Radishes come in over a dozen varieties in all shapes, sizes and colours. Some of our favourites include: daikon, easter egg, black, and watermelon.
Health Benefits: As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, radishes share the cancer-protective actions of its cousins (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc). Radishes contain a sulfur-based compund that increases the flow of bile, helping to maintain a healthy gallbladder and liver, and improve digestion.
Store: To keep radishes as long as possible, trim away the leaves (and save the greens for salads or smoothies as they have nearly 6x the vitamin C content as the root!). Wash the radishes to remove any dirt, add them to a jar and cover with cold water. They'll stay crisp and fresh in the fridge for up to a week!
Prepare: Chop, slice, or grate. We personally love thinly sliced radishes in salads and on top of avocado on toast!
Fiddleheads are the tightly packed spiral fronds of an Ostrich Fern and grow so quickly that they must be picked within a day after they sprout. They are often found near water and under large canopied trees where they are harvested by foragers. Fiddleheads are a rare spring delicacy that have a cult-like following, prized for their shape, delicate flavour and brief availability.
Season: Late April to early May
Fun Facts: Fiddleheads get their name from their striking resemblance to the head of a fiddle!
Health Benefits: Fiddleheads are rich in antioxidents and a good source of Omega-3 fats. They are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, iron, and fiber.
Store: To preserve fiddleheads for year-round enjoyment, you can blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water until cool. Freeze them in airtight containers or bags for up to a year!
Prepare: Remove brown papery husks and rinse fiddleheads in fresh cold water. Because fiddleheads grow in the wild, they are at risk of carrying contaminants. Health Canada recommends boiling them for 15 minutes or steaming them for 10 to 12 minutes, until fork-tender, to reduce the risk of food poisoning. Once fully cooked, they can then be sautéed, baked or puréed into soups (or you can simply enjoy them boiled or steamed). Feeling a bit intimidated by this uncommon veggie? We've got you covered with Five Fantastic Fiddleheads Recipes!
Ramps / Wild Leeks
Ramps and Wild Leeks are the same plant, a type of wild-growing onion generally presented fresh with the green leaves attached to the small white bulb. Another spring delicacy that grows wild, foragers must be careful to sustainably harvest ramps in order to preserve future crops.
Season: Late April
Fun Facts: Wild Leeks are found near the Great Lakes, while Ramps are generally found in the Appalachians. Wild Leeks usually have a larger bulb and a slightly milder flavor, especially in the leaf portion.
Health Benefits: Wild leeks are in the same family as garlic and contain the same sulphur compounds that detoxify and offer us anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. High in iron and antioxidants such as quercetin – an antioxidant that acts as an anti-histamine, protecting us from allergies, hay fever and asthma.
Store: Ramps are best enjoyed fresh but will keep for 4 to 5 days in the fridge. If their roots are still attached, place them in a jar with enough cool water to cover the white part of the bulbs, and use them before the leaves begin to wilt. If your ramps are rootless and have been cleaned, wrap them loosely in moist paper towels in bundles of 4 or 5 inside a plastic bag, stored at the bottom of the fridge.
Prepare: Those who love fresh ramps often simply eat them raw, thinly sliced into salads, on sandwiches or sprinkled on top of a meal. Use ramps and wild leeks in any of your favorite dishes, substituting them for garlic, onions or shallots.
There's nothing special you need to know about growing garlic scapes other then to plant garlic! That's because their formation is part of the natural garlic growth cycle. If scapes are allowed to develop for too long they become woody and lose their flavour. Most gardeners tend to cut the scapes off of their garlic plants as they divert the strength and energy away from forming a plumb bulb.
Fun Facts: Garlic scapes are the flower stalks of the garlic plant! Scapes start to form about a month or so after the first leaves. They begin straight and start curving into wild tangles the longer they grow.
Health Benefits: Garlic scapes contain many allium compounds also found in the bulbs of garlic plants. These compounds may inhibit the enzymes in the body that are responsible for breaking down bone tissue. The sulphur compounds in garlic scapes boost glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant. This can protect the cells of the body against outside causes of illness rom bacteria or viruses, as well as internal causes of damage including stress.
Store: Garlic scapes will keep well in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 weeks. They'll also keep for a few days in a glass jar with some cool water, on the countertop in a cool room, if the water is changed daily.
Prepare: Scapes can be enjoyed raw, cooked, whole or chopped. Prepping them couldn't be easier: just trim and discard the stringy tip of the scape, then cut crosswise, either into tiny coins or string bean-like stalks. Scapes make a delicious spring pesto!