Produce Profiles: What Does March Have in Store for Vegetables?
The seasonal selection is like a mix of sunshine, showers, and clouds — there are hits and misses
We’re all on the clock. And thanks to Daylight Savings Time, the clock’s hands have just sprung us forward by an hour. Even though said savings haven’t saved us from feeling a tad grumpier and groggier, Mother Nature isn’t hitting the snooze button for what’s in season this month.
While we begin to fantasize about the return of brighter and warmer days as March bridges us from winter to spring, we’ll have to patiently wait for a tad longer to enjoy the best of spring and summer vegetables. Nevertheless, March still has tasty and healthy options, replete with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—chock-full of luscious green colour, too.
The month of March marks the very beginning of the chard season, which extends from the end of March to October. This means that you have just over half of the year to enjoy its full glory in wonderful dishes like a warm chard salad with chicken or a colourful risotto with mushrooms.
Closely related to the beet, the leafy green vegetable is also known for its impressive calcium content and low calorie count, which will cost you a nominal 35 calories per cup. This ancient vegetable is, moreover, rich in fibre, which helps you from snacking away at carb-laden foods. That said, if you do eat a lot of it in one go, your teeth may feel slightly funny with a gritty texture — due to the presence of oxalic acid.
While celery isn’t particularly popular in my books as a star ingredient, it yet plays an important role in building an overall flavourful dish. And I especially rely on it for soups, stews, and risottos. Importantly, it even has international prestige: From the French mirepoix to the Cajun Holy Trinity, and to the Italian soffrito, celery forms the foundations to many exquisite dishes of these cuisines.
To that end, it’s likewise a vegetable that is commonly found at market stalls from March to October. Of course, it’s always to be found at the grocery store. At only 14 calories per cup, celery also offers a great source of fibre, making it one of North America’s most iconic and appreciated kid’s snacks: Ants on a Log.
While positively not a favourite of most kids, cabbage yet enjoys a season that extends from September to April. This, ironically, makes it the perfect ingredient for many packed school meals. But there are wonderful ways to cook with the humble vegetable, whether rolled or stir-fried.
On the nutrition front, white cabbage, red cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and so on all have interesting benefits for your body, including coming in at a low-calorie amount of just 22 calories per cup. Rich in vitamins and minerals, each cabbage variant improves your overall digestive health, largely thanks to the helpful push from gut-friendly insoluble fibre — a key to regular bowel movements.
While onions command a wider audience in most kitchens, year-round, leeks yet demand that you enjoy their full flavour before the arrival of summer weather. And so, you can cook with this cousin of garlic and onion at its peak, from September to April.
Although it can cause a bit of friction when it comes to cleaning — literally — it is well worth the extra elbow grease. Because it lends a beautifully delicate and savoury essence to just about anything — pies, soups, and so much more.
This rather long vegetable, which contains slightly more carbohydrates compared to others, also comes with a slightly higher calorie amount of 54 calories per cup. Regardless, its other amazing health benefits far outweigh this — offering calcium, potassium, iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin A, antioxidants, and fibre.
The asparagus season is relatively short, only running a stint from late February to May, so take advantage of it while it’s around — and at its peak flavour and nutrition. Although this spearlike vegetable is accessible throughout the year, spring is the best time to enjoy it in a wide array of preparations.
When freshly harvested, asparagus is also softer and livelier than the imported variety, boasting an excellent source of fibre, beta carotene, and vitamin C. Besides taking advantage of what it has to offer for nutrition, it is even more important to do so as asparagus is, quite surprisingly and critically, a rather significant culprit of carbon emissions. And so, this just underscores how important it is to buy the slender vegetable when it’s in season.
Fun fact: White asparagus is a fascinating variation of its more popular green counterpart, and it is developed by depriving the plant of sunlight during the developing phase. Albeit less common to be found, purple asparagus is awesome — so don’t hesitate to take them home wherever you can.
Spring gives you that extra spring in your step for more exciting vegetables to come but these are four great options to cook with for a rather green month — and they’re perfect for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.