When you think of Greek produce, what comes to mind first? Probably tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers – all the basics of a horiatiki, right?
Yes, those vegetables are all great, and particularly wonderful when grown from the Greek earth! But there is so much more to the Greek table, especially in springtime, when gardens on the islands start to transform into lush landscapes, and city markets become more fresh and fragrant. In fact, spring produces forms a crucial part of the Mediterranean diet, and you’ll find these delicious veggies in many of my favorite dishes.
Below, I’ve broken down 4 crucial spring vegetables to know – and love – in Greece, and the spring-ready recipes I cook the most!
One of the first spring vegetables I look forward to when spring comes around is asparagus! And if you go to a local market, you might stumble upon the wild variety – delicate, spindly, thin as spaghetti and a little darker than what you find in your local grocery store. Wild asparagus is growing right now, in fact, and while it’s not easy to forage for it – a few hours of searching might yield only enough to make an omelet or two – it’s more than worth the effort! Wild asparagus (and, of course, any asparagus) tastes wonderful, with a fresh crunch that makes it a great addition to just about any salad, but it also has plenty of nutritional benefits. Asparagus is low in calories and sodium, but a great source of various vitamins and nutrients, as well as dietary fiber.
Is there a more simple pleasure than a spring carrot? Sweet, crunchy, and totally versatile, this vegetable calls for much more than just blanching – they’re even great to eat solo, as a snack with some snap. The orange supermarket variety might be the most common, but spring carrots actually come in a rainbow of colors. And in the spirit of reducing waste, I recommend you also save the tops – they’re edible, a little like certain varieties of parsley, and can go into soups or salads and even garnish your carrot dishes. These root vegetables do help with your eyesight, but they also boost your immune system, keep your skin healthy, and a lot more!
Artichokes are a harbinger of spring in Greece – and one I’ve written about a lot lately, for good reason! They’re a star of the Mediterranean diet, and Greek cooking has plenty of great artichoke-heavy dishes. If you find yourself in one of the commercial growing centers, like the Aegean islands of Crete and Tinos and the Peloponnese, you’re almost certain to come across them anywhere you grab a table. There are purple and green globe artichoke varieties that are local, small artichokes, and wild thorny artichokes known for their tender hearts. And even better, artichokes are loaded with nutritional benefits: low in fat, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants, they also reduce bad cholesterol, help to regulate blood pressure, and improve liver health.
For me, spring onions are a bit like salt and pepper – I’m always sprinkling them liberally into just about any dish I make! While they’re available year-round, they really peak in the spring and summertime, growing wild and infusing the spring air with their scent. You can eat both the green and white parts, so nothing goes to waste, and you can add them to really anything. Soups, salads, pastas, alongside roasted meats and vegetables…there are no wrong answers when it comes to spring onion. And there are just as many health benefits as uses for this versatile veggie. They have almost no fats, but are packed with vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K – which will help you dodge blood clots and maintain bone strength.