Spring has us seeing green—and lots of it—in seasonal, healthful produce.
Often dismissed as an accompaniment to soup or carrots, peas add color and character to cuisine on nearly every continent.
• Snap peas, snow peas and garden peas are the most common market varieties, with garden peas used primarily in cooking. Green, glossy pods with a hint of velvet offer the best taste. Avoid dull, yellow or dry pods.
• Garden peas are packed with protein, iron and insoluble fiber, which links them to lower cholesterol and decreased risk of heart disease or stroke.
• Growing peas is environmentally friendly. Pea crops build nitrogen in the soil, help prevent erosion and lower the risk of pest problems for other crops.
Boasting nearly 5,000 years of cultivation, this member of the lily family delivers a robust flavor and a host of health benefits.
• Nutrient-dense and packed with folic acid, asparagus is a good source of potassium, fiber and vitamins A, B and C. Even small servings support blood cell formation and growth and help prevent liver disease.
• Firm spears with straight, dime-sized stalks offer the best flavor. Avoid woody or twisted stalks. Most varieties are green; purple or white varieties tend to taste sweeter.
• Preventing spoilage of this highly perishable veggie is easy: Wrap cut stalks in a damp paper towel and refrigerate for up to two days.
Although iceberg lettuce is the U.S.’s most popular variety, the dark green leaves of less common varieties offer the best flavor and nutrition.
• Diverse in flavor, color and variety, lettuce (except iceberg) is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, iron and copper. The spines deliver fiber while minerals and vitamins congregate in leaves.
• Select leaves free of wilt, rot and spots. Store unwashed lettuce in plastic wrap in the coolest part of the refrigerator, usually the first shelf toward the back wall.
• Think twice about storing lettuce alongside apples, pears, bananas or other fruits that release ethylene gas, a natural ripening agent linked to brown spots and decay of leaves.
Sometimes known by the pseudonym of green onions, scallions contribute the zest of onions without overwhelming a dish’s flavor.
• Scallions are often sold in bunches, so select one that features slender, green stalks with elongated white bulbs. Stalks should be no more than pencil-width without yellowing or wilting.
• Just 100 grams can deliver 172 percent of daily vitamin K intake, which can promote bone health. Scallions also are chock-full of B-complex vitamins, copper, magnesium and calcium.
• For regular use, place the white root bulb in a glass of water in the sun. Green stalks will grow back in a few days.
First popularized by Popeye and his growing muscles, spinach continues to pull in top scores for the antioxidant benefits and nutrient richness.
• Raw spinach is full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, perfect for antioxidant protection, anti-inflammatory and potential cancer-fighting benefits. The greener the leaves, the greater their concentration of vitamin C.
• Like lettuce, spinach should be a vibrant, deep green with tender leaves. Avoid leaves with a slimy coat or yellowing edges.
• Wash leaves two or three times in clean water to remove dirt before use, but never leave spinach soaking—nutrients easily leach out into the water.