Springing into local farmers markets

By Jenni Wolf

One of my favorite things about the transition into spring and warmer weather is the return of farmers markets and easier access to local produce.

Some markets run all year round, but many ramp back up with more offerings and return to outdoor settings in early April or May. While markets typically hit their peak with bumper crops of a wider variety of items in the mid-to-late summer months, there are still plenty of tasty finds to check out at spring markets!

Keep reading for my top spring farmers market picks and ways to enjoy them.

Asparagus

Probably one of the most popular spring veggies—this green, stalky vegetable is easy to find at markets in Minnesota. Try regular green varieties or check out purple asparagus for something different. I love tossing fresh, tender stalks with olive oil, garlic and lemon zest and then roasting them in the oven or throwing them on the grill.

Radish

It’s hard to stroll through a spring market without catching your eye on a bunch of radishes, with their fresh-looking green tops and bright, vibrant red color. Radishes can often be polarizing—one of those “you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em” type of foods.

However, I highly recommend giving them a try. Perhaps prepare them in a way you haven’t before—different seasonings and preparation techniques can enhance the flavor and tame the “bite” some might find displeasing. Throw them into a vinegary bath for a quick pickle to add to sandwiches, wraps and bowls. Toss halved radishes in olive oil and roast in the oven until the edges begin to brown and the center is tender (my favorite). Or dip halved radishes in salted butter for a fun, fresh snack idea—don’t knock it until you try it!

Spring greens

Spinach and mixed lettuces are bountiful this time of year. Rinse and dry them well after bringing them home from the market and store loosely wrapped in a paper towel in the fridge to help keep moisture off their delicate leaves.

My favorite way to use them is in a light and refreshing spring salad—think sliced strawberries, a simple vinaigrette, a few toasted pecans and a sprinkle of feta. Adding a handful to a lunchtime sandwich or wrap, or your egg scramble in the morning, is an easy way to use up any extra and get a daily dose of greens.

Rhubarb

These ruby stalks are some of the first things to hit spring market tables and are a for-sure sign of warm, spring weather. While rhubarb is extremely tart, it doesn’t mean it’s not tasty—you should definitely pick up a bundle or two!

Because of its tart and bitter natural taste, it is best used in sweet recipes with a substantial source of sweetener to bring out its flavor and counterbalance the tartness. Make a quick batch of easy strawberry-rhubarb refrigerator jam. Cook up a savory-sweet rhubarb chutney or sauce to serve with chicken or pork. Or go for a classic strawberry rhubarb pie.

My favorite way to use it? Baked into a batch of soft and fluffy rhubarb muffins.

Looking for a local market?

Visit stpaulfarmersmarket.com locations for spring market opening hours and locations. Also, be sure to check out your corner store or food co-op for local spring produce as well if you can’t make it to a market! 

Jenni Wolf, who lives in the Como neighborhood, is a practicing registered dietitian. She is passionate about helping others nourish a positive and balanced relationship with food.

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