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Spring into Health: 3 Veggies You Aren’t Eating but Should Be
Here we are, lucky enough to be alive for another glorious season of newness, otherwise known as spring. Amidst newly warm afternoons and replenishing rainfall, gardens are beginning to flourish, or, depending on location, already bursting with bounty. This is the perfect opportunity to give our diets a straight shot of nutrition and treat our taste buds to fresh flavors and crisp textures. Spring boasts an impressive harvest list, and its usual suspects—lettuce, beans, peas—represent the season well all dressed in various shades of green, the color of growth and vibrancy.
While the old favorites became that way for a reason, they’re only a taste of what the season has to offer. Let’s explore a few of spring’s underrepresented flavors and textures. You’ll be surprised by what you’ve been missing!
Let’s start off with a vegetable that’s often mistaken for a fruit. And when it’s not mistaken, it’s still used as if it were a fruit.
So if you didn’t already know, rhubarb is a vegetable. Its nutrition profile is slightly different than many vegetables because of its deep-red color, usually reserved for fruits. Rhubarb provides nearly half the daily value of Vitamin K and also contains the antioxidant lycopene and the flavonoid anthocyanin, which have been shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease and have anti-carcinogenic effects1.
It grows in stalks that resemble celery, but that’s where the similarities stop. While celery is mild, rhubarb is wild. It has a distinct tartness that’s not easily tamed, which is why it’s most often paired with sugar—and a lot of it. To put a healthier twist on rhubarb, pair it with fruit and let the natural sweetness replace some of the sugar. And while you’re at it, replace the rest of the sugar with maple syrup, agave, or stevia.
You won’t have a hard time finding sweet recipes that incorporate rhubarb, but try substituting “savory” in your web search and you’ll find new ways to enjoy this nutritious, uniquely flavored vegetable.
This little leafy green looks like a mini head of Romaine lettuce. It’s more bitter than lettuce, but on the plus side, unlike lettuce, it holds up well to cooking. The flavor also mellows once a flame enters the picture, allowing this vegetable to shine.
Healthwise, endive can support digestion and cholesterol management. A soluble fiber, it dissolves in liquid and forms a gel that aids the process of elimination. Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream2.
If you aren’t sure how to use endive, keep in mind its versatility. Much more than a lettuce substitute, endive opens up a world of culinary possibility. It can be used in place of crackers for hearty dips, shredded in slaw, topped with cheese and baked as a casserole, or sautéed with butter and balsamic.
Bonus tip: You can grow endive in your Tower Garden!
If you’re scratching your head wondering what a ramp is, you’re probably not from one of the specific areas of the U.S. in which these curious veggies grow. Or you might recognize them as wild leeks. Regardless of what you call them, ramps or wild leeks, they’re worth trying if you can find them.
Ramps pop up in early spring in the upper Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. Part of the allium family of vegetables, including onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives, ramps are stronger than a leek and more pungent than a scallion. According to the Mayo Clinic3, allium vegetables have been shown to be antimicrobial, antitumor, antiarthritic and hypoglycemic agents.
Because ramps are foraged, not cultivated, they can be pricey. Eating them is a cultural experience that only comes around once per year, so the added expense won’t be a regular on your grocery bill. And how to eat them? Your best bet are festivals and “ramp dinners” throughout Appalachia, perhaps the region best known for growing this uncommon veggie. Some of the favorite preparations for ramps: pickled, sautéed, batter-dipped and fried, and grilled.
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