National nutrition month may have come to a close, but that’s no reason to lose your healthful eating momentum. The onset of spring harvest offers an array of nutritious produce that is sure to inspire some creativity in the kitchen.

Before I moved to Northern Virginia last June, I spent six years living in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley: Harrisonburg, Virginia. There, in an area densely-populated with local farms, eating with the seasons is something that was deeply-engrained in the local culture. A majority of nearby restaurants rotated their menus to reflect seasonal harvests, and I can’t recall a single time that my meal didn’t boast ingredients procured within a 50-mile radius. I also lived two blocks away from a co-op grocer which almost exclusively sold in-season produce.

My time spent in the Shenandoah offered me a deep appreciation for the environmental and wellness components of eating with the seasons. When we eat in-season produce that is locally-available, it minimizes the environmental impacts of “food mileage”—the associated pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from eating produce that was shipped from across the country (or further).

The reduced transportation miles from farm to fork also ensures that you’re eating produce that has reached full maturity, meaning you reap the nutritional benefits as well. In fact, some research suggests that since conventional produce is picked before it is fully ripened, the nutritional quality of these fruits and vegetables is likely compromised.

I have also experienced a more qualitative bonus to eating seasonal produce: rather than seeing fruits and vegetables as merely side dishes, I’ve come to appreciate my produce taking center stage in my cooking. I especially love cooking with spring produce because of its distinct freshness and brightness, along with its nutritional abundance. Antioxidant-packed strawberries, vitamin-rich asparagus, and high-fiber greens are at their peak during this transitional season, meaning you can meet your nutritional goals with produce that is local and seasonally available.
There is a healthful, colorful, and delicious diversity of spring produce available for us to celebrate and enjoy, all while being mindful of our environmental footprints. Sometimes, all it takes is the right recipe to get excited about all that spring’s bounty has to offer.

The following fruits and vegetables considered in-season in Virginia
• Asparagus
• Artichokes
• Fresh herbs
• Greens, including spinach, lettuce, and kale
• Radishes
• Peas
• Broccoli
• Apples
• Strawberries

To get you inspired, here are a few of my favorites.

This Chicken, Broccoli, and Asparagus Stir-Fry is a quick, nutrient-dense dinner that’s perfect for busy weeknights—and easily adaptable for vegetarians and vegans like myself. Just substitute tofu or tempeh for a plant-based protein, and add mushroom sauce instead of oyster sauce.

 

  • My favorite seasonal salad is this Warm Spring Salad. This flavorful recipe boasts six seasonal ingredients, and is hearty enough for an entrée salad. Feel free to top with your favorite protein to supplement the quinoa.
  • In the mood for something sweet? This Strawberry Rhubarb Basil Jam is packed with three in-season ingredients, and is refined sugar-free. Instead of agar agar, I like to add about two tablespoons of chia seeds while simmering for an added thickener and fiber boost.

Do you have a favorite spring recipe? Share it in the comment section below. Happy cooking!


Christina Quint, MA, is the sustainability analyst for Inova’s Office of SustainabilityIn this role, she provides programmatic support, manages sustainability communication and marketing, and oversees environmental data collection and analysis to ensure optimal operational performance across the Inova system.