As much as I love the bounty of Pink Lady apples and sweet potatoes at fall and winter farmers’ markets, I still count the days until spring’s produce bounty arrives. Seeing the piles of olive-green asparagus and the first glimpses of stone fruit like peaches and plums makes me excited for the sunshine—and delicious spring meals—that are sure to follow.
When navigating the farmers’ market, it helps to know exactly what’s in season to avoid paying higher prices for poorer-quality produce. Not only do seasonal fruit and veggies taste better, but they’re far less expensive, too. Harvest seasons vary within the United States, so what’s ripe in one area might not be elsewhere. For example, artichokes are popping up in the Northeast but have yet to make an appearance on the West Coast. This regional guide to seasonal produce (which is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Regions and Divisions map) will show you what to look for in your local markets this spring.
This region includes: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Alaska
As you might guess with such a large area, there’s some variation between states. On the Pacific side (Washington, Oregon, and California), expect to see asparagus, cauliflower, garlic, lettuce, mushrooms, pears, radishes, rhubarb, scallions, spinach, peas, raspberries, strawberries, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums. Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Montana have dormant growing seasons right now, meaning nothing’s being harvested at the moment. (Sorry, guys!) The rest of the states offer potatoes, leafy greens like kale and chard, corn, and asparagus.
Recipes to try: Sautéed Mushrooms alla Alli, Pear Panini, Fresh Corn Salad, Loaded Potatoes
This region includes: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio
Residents here can look forward to cabbage, asparagus, radishes, rhubarb, collard greens, arugula, spinach, cherries, broccoli, leeks, potatoes, beets, strawberries, peas, and turnips. This is also the time to pick up sorrel, a leafy herb that looks like spinach but has a tart, lemonlike taste. It’s great in soups and as a replacement for basil in pesto.
Recipes to try: Hearty Vegan Split Pea Soup, Fresh Strawberry Pie, Linguini with Spinach and Capers, German Red Cabbage
This region includes: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.
Berries of all kinds make an appearance in this region in the spring, including blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Also showing up are nectarines, peaches, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peas, plums, leafy greens (chard, collard, and kale), lima beans, potatoes, cabbage, asparagus, watermelon, okra, lettuce, and mushrooms. Florida has a slightly different fruit selection than anywhere else in the country, offering watermelons and mangoes.
Recipes to try: Mango and Beef (Thai Style), Roasted Green Beans, Creamy Cauliflower Purée, Easy Scalloped Potatoes
This region includes: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island
Markets in this region carry arugula, carrots, lettuce, onions, radishes, scallions, spinach, strawberries, artichokes, broccoli, peas, and collard greens. Massachusetts is the only state in this region that has a dormant season in the spring.
Recipes to try: Collard Greens with Hot Pepper Sauce, Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup, Linguine with Spinach and Capers, Elegant Strawberry Salad
Regardless of where you live in the country, this spring’s bound to bring a variety of delicious fresh produce to your kitchen. In my opinion, a perfectly seasonal dish, like Blackened Tilapia with Roasted Corn and Baby Spinach or Rainbow Chard Quesadillas, is the perfect way to say goodbye to the dreary winter and hello to the warm, happier days ahead. So what are you waiting for? Get to the market and start celebrating spring! Your taste buds—and wallet—will appreciate the effort.