Spring is in full swing and the markets are exploding with fresh May produce. It's a wonderful time to enjoy fresh, in-season produce, as the warmer weather brings an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables to market. In this blog post, we'll explore some of the best seasonal produce that you can find during the month of May.
This post is the 5th in my Monthly Seasonal Produce Guides series.
For me, as a cook and a gardener, eating seasonally and eating local go hand in hand. The goal of eating seasonally is so that I can enjoy foods that are harvested as close to home as possible and that didn’t have to travel thousands of miles. This is why I am such a big proponent of homegrown food and edible gardening.
Much of the produce trucked from far away places is harvested early and forced to ripen before it hits your grocery store produce aisle. Another reason to seek out seasonal food? You’re supporting local farmers and that’s a good thing! So, what's in season in May?
This spicy, leafy green is a good source of vitamin K, calcium, and antioxidants like sulforaphane. It has a slightly bitter flavor that pairs well with a variety of dishes, from salads to sandwiches. You can enjoy it as baby leaves (the kind you get in bags or clamshell containers) or as more mature bunches (which will be much more peppery and used more for cooking rather than raw eating).
Growing arugula in the home garden or a container is actually quite easy and I recommend it to anyone starting a food-growing journey.
Asian greens (bok choi, tatsoi and others) love the cool temperatures of spring. They are in season March, April and May. Stir-fried, steamed, and added to salad. In fact, many baby Asian greens are added to mesclun mixes to add a peppery bite to otherwise bland lettuce.
Asparagus is one of the first vegetables to appear in the springtime. With its slender stalks and delicate flavor, asparagus is a versatile ingredient that can be grilled, roasted, or added to salads. It can be eaten raw or cooked. It is high in fiber and a good source of antioxidants, making it a nutritious choice. Though local availability will vary from region to region, March to May will be the typical season for folks living in the US North East, Midwest, Ontario, Quebec.
These sweet, crunchy vegetables are a good source of vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants like beta-carotene. They have a slightly sweet, earthy flavor that pairs well with a variety of dishes. As a cool weather crop, they love the colder temperatures of fall, winter and spring. When shopping for carrots in May, look for bunched carrots. Smaller spring-harvested carrots are one of the earliest crops you can enjoy as the growing season kicks into gear.
Kale and Collards
Kale and collard greens are cool-weather crops that thrive when the temperatures are low. What's great about them is that they will continue to grow all season long, making local kale and collards regular staples at the market.
These vegetables are high in fiber and contain a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. Kale, in particular, is a nutritional powerhouse. Use it in salads, sauté it as a side dish, add it to smoothies or chop it into a creamy winter coleslaw.
This leafy green is a staple in salads and sandwiches, and it comes in a variety of types, including romaine, butter, and red leaf. Lettuce is a good source of vitamins A and K, as well as antioxidants. Another easy crop to grow in a container or pot.
A classic springtime vegetable, peas are a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K. They have a sweet, delicate flavor that's perfect for adding to salads, stir-fries, and pasta dishes. Local peas will be in season in March, April, May and even into June.
Included in my book is a recipe for Spring Pesto which features both peas and arugula.
Radishes are a crisp and slightly spicy root vegetable that can be enjoyed raw, cooked or even pickled. They are high in vitamin C and a good source of fiber. They are also incredibly easy to grow yourself in your home garden or even containers. Radishes are one of the first crops to be harvested from my garden in the spring.
This tart, reddish-pink vegetable (yes, it’s a vegetable even though it is used in sweet recipes) is a good source of fiber, calcium, and antioxidants like flavonoids. It has a tangy, slightly sweet flavor that's perfect for adding to pies, jams, tarts and other desserts. April usually marks the beginning of field-grown rhubarb and harvest continues into June.
Note: The local rhubarb available in January, February and March is forced, meaning that it is grown in dark conditions and forced to produce stalks. These stalks will be lighter in color and slightly skinnier than your typical rhubarb stalks harvested from the field in the spring (April, May, June).
Spinach is considered a cool weather crop and thrives in cooler temperatures. It hates the heat, so the season for field-grown spinach is short. It is versatile, nutritious and can be enjoyed in salads, smoothies, or cooked as a side dish. Local field spinach is only available for a short time, typically in March, April and May. Once the weather warms up, it is no longer available unless farmers take special measures to protect it from the summer heat.
Note: Greenhouse-grown spinach is available year-round, typically sold in bags or clamshell plastic containers at the grocery store.
These juicy, red berries are a good source of vitamin C, manganese, and antioxidants like flavonoids and ellagic acid. They have a sweet, tangy flavor that's perfect for adding to desserts like tarts or tossing into a salad or smoothie.
Spring is when perennial herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary, mint, and oregano come back to life.
I created a handy graphic for you here. Go ahead and Pin it so you can refer to it again and again.
Seasonal food is very regionally specific. Something might be in season in California and not in season in New York. For example, strawberries are in season in California year-round. In New York, Ontario, and other parts of the North East, local strawberries will be in season in June and July.
The best way to know your food is in season? Shop at local farmers’ markets and ask questions. Look at the grocery store labels and tags.