6 Fruits and Veggies to Pick up at Your Local Grocery Store in April
Spring has sprung, and we’re back with another round of the best fruits and veggies to buy in your area this month!
April swooped in bright and sunny, and (knock on wood) I think we’re past the worst of the winter storms. As the last of the slush melts away and the days grow longer, farmers markets across the country are reopening for the warmer months, bringing with them a whole new world of fresh produce reaching far beyond winter’s bland grocery store selection.
And because it’s all in peak season, we’ll see some of the lowest prices of the year!
And while February and March gave us the tender, frost-hardy vegetal promises of great things to come, April is the real jumping-off point for the fresh-produce party — from here on out, your favorite fruits and veggies get brighter, bigger and more flavorful as the year goes on.
So pack up your reusable bags (be kind to the Earth — she gives you that food!) and set out for your nearest farmers market. We’ve got your list of delicious spring fruits and vegetables ready to go!
1. California: Artichokes
Unfortunately, heavy winter rains have delayed — or destroyed — a lot of California crops this year. But seeing as California continues to be the No. 1 producer of so many of our favorite fruits and veggies, we should still expect to see peak-season produce prices drop by an appreciable amount.
April is the height of California artichoke season. Believe it or not, California actually produces 99.99% of all commercially grown artichokes in the U.S. each year. In fact, the state even has a festival devoted to these tough little budding thistles. (Yup, artichokes are actually just the tops of flowering thistles before they bloom. Go ahead — Google “flowering artichoke,” and try to convince me you already knew that.)
As weird as they look, though, artichokes are seriously delicious. Paired with spinach in the traditional cheesy dip, mixed into a hearty chicken piccata (if you haven’t ever had a version with artichoke hearts, try it — life-changing) or pickled, straight out of the jar, artichoke hearts are just plain tasty. But I’ll tell you what: These stuffed artichokes? Whew. My new favorite meal.
2. Florida: Blueberries
Eventually, especially in the more temperate regions, plump, juicy summer berries will overrun the northern states. In the meantime, Florida is enjoying the mildest weather it’ll have all year — and it’s doing wonders for its blueberry crop.
It’s a fun weekend activity in Florida to find a you-pick blueberry patch and get to work. If you can find one near you, you can score a whole bucket of fresh — like, you’re picking them straight off the plant fresh — blueberries for as little as $3 per pound.
And if you’re wondering what to do with all those berries, check out this incredible spin on the traditional comfort food staple, grilled cheese.
3. Massachusetts: Fava Beans and Greens
In mid-April, fava beans are just beginning to be in season, while fava greens are reaching the end of peak season. But for this brief window of time, both the greens and beans of this near-delicacy are available.
Fava beans are high in all the good stuff (iron, potassium, vitamin K, the list goes on) and are an excellent source of lean protein. And what they lack in ease of use, due to the fact that each bean comes encased in a rough husk (inside the pod), they more than make up for with their nutty, buttery flavor.
Once you get past the double-shelling, try this recipe to really highlight the smoothness of the beans. Bonus: The recipe also features another of our April picks — radishes!
Fava greens, on the other hand, are easy to work with and mirror the bean’s flavor, so they’re a good alternative when you want that velvety taste without all the work. While you can use fava greens just about anywhere you’d use any other greens (think soups or salads), sometimes simplicity is key.
For a delicious and easy side dish, try a simple saute with oil, a little bit of garlic and a sprinkle of lemon juice right at the end.
Just remember, if all else fails, fava beans go great with liver and a nice Chianti.
4. Oregon: Rhubarb
Rhubarb is weird, and many people are afraid of it to some degree.
It’s technically a vegetable (it looks like celery), but performs more often like a fruit, usually found in a pie or crumble alongside sweet, juicy strawberries. It has a fairly short peak season (from the end of March to the middle of May) because it isn’t very heat tolerant, so be sure to grab it when you see it at the market — it won’t be there long!
Working with rhubarb is very similar to working with celery. Just be sure to cut off and discard the leaves — they’re poisonous!
Now, because I’m all about throwing as many peak season ingredients into one dish as possible, check out this recipe for blueberry rhubarb sauce that pairs perfectly with a waffle and a little whipped cream.
5. The Midwest: Radishes
Radishes thrive in cool weather and grow to full maturity quickly, meaning they’re ready to go by midspring. When picking radishes at the market, look for ones that are about the size of a pingpong ball (and no larger than a golf ball), as they start losing their snappy texture when they overgrow.
Flavorwise, radishes have a unique profile — light and crisp with a peppery zing. Because of this, they perform well in a wide variety of dishes: pickled, in tacos, mixed into salads, roasted with onions as a side for a juicy steak — there’s really no wrong way to prepare these little guys.
But here’s another recipe that includes an April produce pick — you can substitute fava beans for the edamame in this delicious, crunchy salad.
6. California: Green Garlic
In the same way stalky onion leaves that grow above the ground are green onions, the stalky leaves of garlic bulbs are green garlic. The difference between them is the flavors, as green garlic is a lot more, well, garlicky.
When you go to purchase green garlic at the local farmers market, you should treat it just like a green onion — look for firm, fresh tops, and avoid soggy or discolored leaves.
Once you get them home, chop off the bulb along with any tough spots on the dark green ends — you’ll be left with the white, light green and the tenderest of the dark green parts. Green garlic is pretty heavy-handed raw, but the flavor softens when you cook them, so it can be used anywhere you would use either regular garlic or green onions. Personally, I like it sprinkled over eggs (any type) in the morning.
April Showers Bring… Delicious Spring Fruits and Veggies
Now that the weather is warming up across the U.S., you’ll start to see a wide variety of produce pouring into your local farmers market and grocery store. Keep an eye out for your old spring favorites, but dare to try something new, too!
Your Turn: Has your local farmers market reopened for the season yet?
Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.