Most fruits and veggies are available year-round, but they’re most flavorful and affordable when they’re “in season”. Read on to see what produce peaks in May.
Blink and you’ll miss apricot season, which takes place from early May to July. This small, round golden-hued stone fruit is similar to a peach, but more tart. Like their pitted compatriots, they go well in pies, tarts, cobblers, and more. The majority of US apricots (nearly 85%) are grown in California. An excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, one apricot has only 17 calories and is a good source of potassium and fiber.
Choose apricots that are plump, firm, and uniformly colored, avoiding ones that are green, bruised, or mushy. Store them at room temp until nice and ripe, then devour with the skin on, since it contains a large amount of fiber and nutrients. According to Healthline, “It’s best to enjoy apricots whole and unpeeled, as the skin boasts large amounts of fiber and nutrients.” The Produce for Better Health Foundation suggests storing apricots at room temperature until ripe, at which point they’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week.
There are four types of this delicious and nutritious veggie: green, purple, white, and wild. That’s right, this hardy perennial can grow by the side of the road. Humans have enjoyed asparagus for thousands of years. This versatile vegetable can be eaten raw or shaved, steamed, roasted, or grilled (which enhances its nutty flavor). One cup of asparagus has fewer than 27 calories, yet it is a rich source of folate and potassium and provides substantial amounts of two antioxidants—vitamins A and C.
According to the University of Illinois Extension, “Contrary to popular belief, thinner stems are not an indication of tenderness. Thick stems are already thick when they poke their heads out of the soil and thin stems do not get thicker with age. Tenderness is related to maturity and freshness.” Whether you prefer thin or thick, look for smooth stems with compact tips, and avoid withered-looking spears. To store in the fridge, trim the stems and put them in a glass with a couple of inches of water, then cover with a plastic bag for two to three days until ready to use.
From mild, large heads of butter lettuce to small, peppery arugula leaves, spring and early summer is the best time for leafy greens. It’s pretty much common knowledge now that the darker the green, the healthier it is. Experiment with nutrient-rich lettuces, such as Swiss Chard, collard greens, spinach, and kale. Epicurious describes how to perfectly toss a salad by tearing the lettuce (Little Gem in this case) into bite-size pieces, then washing, air-drying, and wrapping in a dishtowel in the fridge until time to dress and serve. To dress, pour the dressing in the bottom of a large bowl, then add the leaves and toss—using your hands instead of tongs, which can bruise the leaves. Transfer the coated leaves to the salad serving bowls. This way you avoid over-dressing, which leads to a soggy salad.
Garden peas, sugar snaps, and snow peas signal that spring has arrived. Pea season starts in April and continues until June or July in cooler areas. Smaller garden peas are sweeter and more tender, while larger ones are more on the starchier side. According to the Real Food Encyclopedia, every kind of pea is good for you. They explain that peas “sort of combine the nutritional benefits of veggies with the good stuff in legumes. Garden peas are higher in calories than most other veggies and are rich in fiber and protein. They also have huge amounts of Vitamins C, A, K, and folate, and are high in manganese, iron, zinc, and magnesium. They even contain a little bit of calcium.”
Look for plump, bright green pods without brown or wilted spots. Sugar snaps should be crisp, while snow peas should be bright green and pliable. Garden peas are best friends with bacon, butter, mint, and onions, while snow peas and sugar snaps go great in stir-fries. Fresh peas will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.
Love ’em or hate ’em, round, red radishes (commonly referred to as “table radishes”) spring up in stores from April until June. These low-calorie root veggies contain copious amounts of Vitamin C. Search for smooth-skinned radishes with minimal blemishes and absolutely no mushy spots. Eat them raw, roasted, braised, steamed, fried as chips, or pickled. While cooking will reduce their peppery pungency, it will also reduce their vitamin C content. Unlike their spicy, crunchy counterparts, roasted radishes are sweet, tender, and juicy. The French eat raw radishes for breakfast on buttered bread. Toss them on top of tacos, add them to your banh mi sandwich, or sub radishes for lettuce in Korean kimchi. These hardy vegetables can be wrapped loosely in a towel and stored in the crisper for at least a week.
Another springtime vegetable, prime rhubarb season runs from April through June. The herbaceous perennial‘s rose-colored stalks resemble celery, while its dark green leaves are similar to Swiss chard. However those green leaves contain high concentrations of oxalic acid, which is toxic to humans. Instead of letting the inedible, poisonous leaves go to waste, make a natural pesticide. Raw rhubarb is low in calories and is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and calcium. Find firm, crisp, blemish-free stalks with fresh-looking leaves (if attached). Rhubarb’s strong, tart taste is tamed by stewing it with sugar before adding it to a pie or crumble. While it is commonly paired with strawberry in the states, ginger is a more popular partner in England. This bitter veggie keeps wrapped in the crisper for about a week.
I just got a gallon of bright red, sweet, juicy strawberries and I can’t wait to make a Strawberry-Pretzel Tart, Strawberry Shortcake, and Strawberry Freezer Jam. I might even bust out a fruit pizza. If I have any leftover, I’ll freeze them for smoothies and healthy frozen yogurt. And I’m not going to feel bad about eating all of my treats, because not only are strawberries relatively high in fiber, but they’re also an excellent source of vitamin C.
It’s pretty obvious when berries are past their peak, but you want to look for shiny, firm fruit that’s nice and red with fresh green caps that are intact. Say “no thank you” to shriveled, mushy, or leaky berries. While I like to wash my produce right when I get home from the store, I’m holding off on giving the strawberries a rinse until I use them, since washing introduces more moisture, causing the berries to spoil faster. Okay, I’ve gotta get cooking. These berries will only keep for a few days in the fridge!