Check out this post by Jesi Dunaway, our beloved catering assistant and graduate of Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition.
In a world where grocery stores carry tomatoes in January and apples in June, it’s easy to forget that, once upon a time, food changed with the seasons. Here in the CeL kitchen, we’re welcoming the newly warm weather with a few quintessential spring foods that are still truly seasonal. You’ve spotted green garlic, garlic scapes, ramps, and fiddleheads on our menus for a couple of weeks now. You know they’re delicious—but there’s so much more to know about them.
Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes
The difference between these two is subtle; garlic scapes are the shoots of garlic that are pinched off, allowing more nutrients and energy to go toward growing the garlic bulbs, whereas green garlic is the entire young garlic plant, including the baby bulb. They both have a distinct garlicky flavor without the bite of a mature garlic clove.
Scapes and green garlic also have a nutritional profile similar to that of garlic cloves; that means you’re getting a healthy dose of calcium and vitamin C (the usual suspects), as well as vitamin B6 and manganese. For all you mommies-to-be out there, vitamin B6 has a long-standing reputation for combating nausea and morning sickness. No one has figured out quite why it works, but it’s still a great excuse to down some extra garlicky goodness this spring.
If you’re like me, and you can’t get enough of these springy garlic treats, you’ll get a kick out of this New York Times article from 2008.
Ramps are not to be confused with rampion, the plant that drove Rapunzel crazy. But we still think the magic of ramps is totally worth sending your husband into a witch’s garden.
Ramps, like garlic and onions, belong to the genus allium, and the flavor of ramps is frequently described as a garlic and onion hybrid (ramps are commonly called wild leeks, in a nod to their oniony characteristics). They’re also beautiful plants, with wide, flat leaves and pinkish, purplish stalks, both of which are edible (and delicious).
These beauties also provide you with a kick of vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, which is essential to good vision (the better to scope out patches of wild ramps), as well as the maintenance of good immune function.
In our bundle of green springtime treats, fiddleheads might just be the strangest of the bunch. That’s because they’re not related to anything in your crisper drawer, but rather, to the plants on your front porch. That’s right, fiddleheads are delectable, edible baby fern fronds. While most fern species produce fiddleheads, only the ones from ostrich ferns are edible; they are distinguished by a U-shaped groove along the inside of the stem and a brown, papery covering on the uncoiled “head” of the fern (yours truly recently spent several hours in the CeL kitchen separating those papery bits from the edible fiddleheads).
These unique treats pack a nutritional wallop; in addition to vitamins C and A, fiddleheads provide you with a dose of fiber, and surprisingly, antioxidants and essential fatty acids (according to this paper from the Canadian Journal of Plant Science; check it out if you wanna get all scientific). Antioxidants protect your body from the damaging effects of oxygen, turning free radicals into less reactive compounds. Essential fatty acids, like omega-3s, also serve a number of important functions; they are structural components of our cell walls, and they help regulate blood pressure and nerve transmissions. Most importantly, our bodies cannot synthesize essential fatty acids, so we must get them from our diets. Sounds like another good reason to dig into fiddleheads this month!
Keep an eye on our menus to see when these spring treats will be coming to your table. Happy spring, and happy, healthy eating!