For me Spring isn’t just about the warm temperatures, sunny skies and longer days (though that certainly helps!), it’s about the produce. My regular routine begins to kick in again with early Saturday mornings at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, a stop by the Park Slope Food Coop and home to unpack all my current finds followed by canning, brunching or whatever else ensues. It’s almost impossible not to come home, arms sore from carrying bags brimming with fresh picked treats. Baby lettuces, crisp stalks of asparagus, sweet, ripe strawberries–no matter how many bags I bring with me, I never seem to have enough room to carry it all.
The thermometer might have said 90° last Saturday, but I swear it was much hotter. Maybe not so hot as humid. Stepping outside I needed to forcefully push myself through the thick, hot air, each step forward needing complete attention and concentration. And this was at 9am. My husband lay in bed, comfortably bundled under the covers in our over air conditioned bedroom. But I was on a mission. Perhaps my last free weekend to get cherries, I wanted to make sure I had plenty to last through the winter.
When I arrived at Grand Army Plaza, the sun seemed to have gotten significantly hotter and pull closer after just a short 20 minute train ride. Grand Army is one of my favorite markets and the most convenient “big” market to my apartment, but it offers no shade other than the flimsy popup farm tents. I tried to stay under cover but it was a lost cause. I was surprised to see that in just one week the market had come alive with summer produce. Sweet corn, juicy peaches and heirloom tomatoes seemed to be everywhere. I collected a few of each but stayed true to my plan. Sweet bing and sour cherries both beckoned to me. Both equally delicious but drastically different. The heat left me with no energy to choose favorites so I did what anyone in my situation would do. I went home some of each, a little more than 4 pounds each.
Until a few weeks ago, I only thought of radishes as the spicy crunch in my salads. Or in pickled form. Which I have to admit, are one of my least favorite types of pickles, just a bit higher ranked than eggs. But all that changed while flipping through the Edible Brooklyn cookbook, a gift from a few Christmases ago, far under utilized. A recipe for radishes sautéed with cream and herbs caught my eye. I had heard of cooked radishes but never sampled or made them myself. The promise that cooking mellowed the root, taking away it’s spicy bite was a bit disappointed (there’s just something addictive about the peppery snap of a radish) but I was still intrigued.
After being blessed with such an early harvest last year, everything feels late. It’s like spring will never come. Of course, there’s greens (there’s always greens), but I wanted real spring. Asparagus, garlic scapes, strawberries. I religiously follow GrowNYC’s twitter feeds. It’s honestly the best way to see what’s at the markets right now. When I noticed rhubarb had hit the markets I was beyond excited. That is until I remembered I had designated Mother’s Day dessert duty to my sister-in-law. What else could I possibly do with rhubarb besides stick it in a pie, crisp or spoon a sauce of it over a panna cotta?
It just isn’t spring without asparagus. I slept in a little last Saturday. I knew I had to get to the greenmarket early to guarantee the freshest produce, but with the weather being extra soggy, I figured an extra hour wouldn’t really matter. Boy was I wrong. Note to self: Greenmarket shoppers are hardcore. Rain, sleet, snow or torrential downpour. They’ll be there, especially during the early weeks of spring where a bunch of green asparagus or rosy red rhubarb is like a blinding ray of sunshine among an otherwise grey day. So if you want the good stuff, you better be there bright and early too.