I wait for BABY TURNIPS with impatience as spring comes around the corner. The reason being is the green tops that crown them. Spring is the season for a flourish of robust, minerally leafy greens, from beets greens to dandelion leaves, sorrel to young red radicchio. First wilted, either alone or as a mélange, then sautéed with a bit of garlic and pinch of peperoncino. Seasoned with grey salt, a pinch of lemon zest and a few drops of fresh lemon juice... Sublime, and oh so nutritious. They burst forth from mid-March through mid-July. Do keep an eye out for them.
SPRING SHALLOTS are yet another species of the Allium genus, which includes onions of every shape and color, as well as garlic. I spot them on vegetable stands during the months of April, May and June. I love to roast the delicate bulbs and serve them with other roasted spring vegetables over a wonderful rustic polenta Taregna (buckwheat polenta), a traditional recipe from Valtellina in Italy's Lombardia region.
SPINACH, though ever present — winter, spring, summer, and fall — has that special quality of youth when, in spring, it reaches for the sun. It is harvested in bunches, cut just above the roots, and offers a fresh tang to any dish.
The famous The MENTON LEMON boasts its own festival in the town of Menton down along the Côte d'Azur near the Italian border, after which it is named, from February 18 to March 9. Available from mid-February through June, they are larger and sweeter than our common lemon.
I find these wonderful spring heads of RED CABBAGE at the marketplace in April, May and even June. I slice it up into a fine chiffonade (using a mandolin), add some diced apple and Sultana raisins, and dress it with a homemade mint mayonnaise.
CAULIFLOWER — from that Brassica oleracea tribe! — is harvested from April to June and displayed on vegetable stands here in Paris as fresh young, unblemished heads definitely worth being invited into the crowd of raw vegetables in a pinzimonio and sensually dipped into unrefined-sea-salt and freshly-ground-pepper seasoned new-harvest extra-virgin olive oil (what a mouthful...). Being that cauliflowr is — as are most if not all Brassica oleracea plants — a cool season vegetable, it is also harvested from September to November... though maybe not as tender as a spring head it is warmly soothing in a pipping hot creamy soup.
PEONIES... what is there to say but that they are a most exquisite flower that blooms in May, and no sooner its petals open and offering its gentle scent, then they are gone.
The colorful BORLOTTI or Cranberry bean and the riveting green FAVA or broad bean in their plump fresh pods are ready for harvest from mid-spring through mid-summer. Both pulses are more than worth the time and patience required to release them from their curious integuments. Gather together a friend or two and sit down under the shade of an apple tree or awning and spin a few tales as you shuck them one by one. (Recipes forthcoming...)
The arrival of the sweet SWEET PEA at marketplaces from May through July is always festive. As for me, I shuck them with delight over and over in my kitchen for weeks on end and eat them in salads, buckwheat crepes, and the succulent traditional Risi e Bisi rice dish that dates back to the Republic of Venice.