In so many aspects of life, spring is the perfect time to refresh and renew … and your daily diet is no exception. Although it might still be cold outside, your mindset can’t help but be uplifted from the glimpse of the first seasonal flower, and consequently, you begin to crave lighter and more aromatic meals. Some of the most rejuvenating offerings of the season are also some of the more unusual. These special ingredients offer either a bit of candy for the eye in terms of color and form, or address specific healthy functions with their naturally-occurring nutrients that are essential for this time of year. And in some cases, do both! Here are some of my top picks:
Goldenberry – Although fresh cape gooseberries don’t usually make their appearance at markets until later in the spring, you can enjoy dried goldenberries (which are the same thing) year-round for a more intense, explosive flavor experience. But even more impressive than their bright flavor is their nutrition: goldenberries are extremely high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants like quercitin and Vitamin C, which are a tremendous boon to keeping your immune system strong and warding off allergies.
Kumquats – All citrus is worth enjoying during this time of year, but kumquats take the zesty flavor game to a whole new level. Their potent zing is a welcome addition to both heavier proteins as well as lighter vegetable dishes, or they can be simply popped in the mouth like a grape and enjoyed a la carte. (Personally speaking, I’ve found their aggressively aromatic flavor to be excellent for cleansing the palate and soothing cravings.)
Romanesco broccoli – Romanesco looks like a marriage of broccoli and cauliflower, with a distinct alien influence – visually, it’s a standout vegetable for any spring menu. It tastes like a mild cauliflower (which to be fair, also belongs on the spring menu, as well as broccoli), but significantly ups the cool factor with its artistic spiral shape and chartreuse color. Additionally, its high sulfur content promotes a healthy complexion and supple joints.
Flowers – No, adding flowers to your foods isn’t just an Instagram trend! Flowers contain many rare phytochemicals and antioxidants, and can add a peppery flavor to vegetable and fruit-based dishes. One caveat: not all flowers are edible (and some are actually poisonous). To be safe, stick to well-known edibles like nasturtiums, pansies, marigolds, violets, cornflowers, or fruit/vegetable blossoms, and always pick them from food-safe/no-spray sources (aka don’t raid your local florist).
Wheatgrass – If ever there was an instinctual food to eat in the spring, edible grasses should top this list. As one of the most cleansing foods on the planet, adding mild-tasting wheatgrass powder (or even fresh-squeezed juice if you’re super hardcore) to your daily routine is an ideal way to invigorate the body with a massive spectrum of nutrients, and enjoy the feeling of youthful, sustainable energy.
Morels – There’s no denying that this ingredient can be both challenging to find, and priced at a premium, but file these sponge-like mushrooms under “worth it.” Housing a wealth of juicy umami flavor and immune-boosting phytochemicals, morels are easily spring’s most exciting mushroom. Plus, they have a very short growing season, so be sure to jump on the opportunity to enjoy them if you happen to get the chance.