Posted October 8th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

pumpkins in a line

In light of this week’s pumpkin bounty from Stepped in What Vegetables–a whopping eleven different varieties!–now seems as good a time as ever to brush up on the culinary uses of these fall/winter cucurbits. Did you know, for instance, that Hubbard Squash and Cheese Pumpkins make tastier, richer pies than the standard so-called “Pie Pumpkins” do? Or that pumpkin purée can be used in place of eggs and oil in baking? How about savory recipes? Have you tried adding cubed pumpkin to chili, or stuffing and roasting one for an impressive main dish?

Whether you’re planning to make just one pie or a season’s worth of recipes, here are some tips and tricks for cooking with these incredibly versatile vegetables:

image via Rodale’s Organic Life

To Make Pumpkin Purée: Preheat the oven to 375°F and spray 2 baking sheets lightly with cooking spray. Hack the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut the pumpkin into manageable wedges (about 2 to 3 inches thick). Place the pumpkin wedges on the prepared baking sheets in a single layer, and roast for 45 to 60 minutes, until the flesh is tender and the skin is easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove the pumpkin from the oven. When it is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Then transfer the purée to a colander or fine-mesh sieve, set a plate directly on top of the purée to weigh it down, and let it drain over a bowl for at least 45 minutes, until the purée is as thick as custard. Reserve the pumpkin juice to use in place of water in other recipes.

turban small porcelain small

For pies and other baked goods . . . 

Try Hubbard Squash, Cheese Pumpkins, Sugar Pie/Lil’ Ironsides, Fairytale/Musque de Provence, Cinderella, and Porcelain Doll.

For soups, stews, and casseroles . . . 

Try Turban Squash, Fairytale/Musque de Provence, Cinderella, Peanut, and

Porcelain Doll.

For stuffing . . . 

Try Cheese Pumpkins, Sugar Pie/Lil’ Ironsides, Fairytale/Musque de Provence, Cinderella, and Porcelain Doll.

big pumpkin mini-pumpkins

For roasting, pastas, and pizzas . . . 

Try Turban Squash, Hubbard Squash, Cheese Pumpkins, Sugar Pie/Lil’ Ironsides, Peanut Pumpkins, Fairytale/ Musque de Provence, and Porcelain Doll.

For smoothies, juices, and parfaits . . . 

Try Cheese Pumpkins, Sugar Pie/Lil’ Ironsides, Peanut Pumpkins, and Porcelain Doll.

For decoration and Jack O’ Lanterns . . . 

Try Baby Boos, Jack be Littles, Sugar Pie/Lil’ Ironsides, Cinderella Pumpkins, Field Trip, and Porcelain Doll.

Click here and here and here for some inspiration.


Posted September 24th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

Fall has officially arrived, and so have the first big apple deliveries from Beechwood Orchards and Three Springs Fruit Farm. Here’s a handy guide to help you navigate the fourteen different apple varieties we now have at the ‘stand, and a few recipes to rev up your fall cooking repertoire:


Empire: Sweet and crisp with bright white flesh and maroon coloring. Relative of the McIntosh apple, with similar floral/melon notes. Best for eating fresh or juicing.

Fuji: Very sweet and crisp with speckled pink coloring. Flesh is dull white and exceptionally juicy. Best for eating fresh or juicing.

Gala: Pleasantly sweet with pale orangeish-red to maroon coloring. Flesh ranges from creamy white to pale yellow, and its mild flavor is often likened to pears. Best for eating fresh or juicing.

Ginger Gold: Mild and sweet, with pale yellow-green coloring and a slightly sharper flavor than Golden Delicious. Best for eating fresh or juicing.

Golden Delicious: Very mild and sweet, with greenish-gold coloring. Flesh ranges from white to pale green and is richly sweet in flavor. Best for eating fresh or cooking.

Grimes Golden: A pale yellow American heirloom believed to be a parent variety of Gold Delicious. Very firm and pleasantly tart with an extra burst of astringency. Best for eating fresh, cooking/baking, and juicing. Great choice for homemade hard cider.

Honeycrisp: Predominantly sweet with streaked red and yellowish-green coloring. Flesh is white, very crisp and juicy, slightly acidic, and not too dense. Best for eating fresh, cooking, and juicing.

Ida Red: Sweet and tart with shiny red and green coloring. Flesh is bright white and holds up especially well in pies, cakes, and pastries. Best for cooking and baking.

Jonamac: Cross between Jonathan and McIntosh. Tart with sweet undertones and very crisp flesh. Coloring is deep red over a light green background. Best for eating fresh, cooking, baking, and juicing.

Jonathan: Well-balanced sweet-tart apple with red (sometimes yellow-streaked) coloring. Flesh is firm and juicy and makes for the perfect applesauce. Best for eating fresh, cooking, baking, and juicing.

McIntosh: Sweet with an acidic bite and shiny crimson-and-green skin. Flesh is bright white, very crisp, and holds up well in sauces and chutneys. Best for eating fresh, cooking, and baking.

Rambo: Sweet and just a little tart with a squatty, plump shape and bright green coloring. Flesh is white to pale green, crisp, and juicy. Best for eating fresh.

Red Delicious: Very sweet with thick, bright red skin. Flesh is dense and white to pale pink in color. Best for eating fresh.

September Wonder Fuji: An early, well-colored Fuji. Pink to reddish in color with sweet, crisp flesh. Best for eating fresh or juicing.

apples-1 apples-2




Posted September 10th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

Thanksgiving may seem pretty far in the future (eleven weeks/seventy-seven days from now, to be exact), but here at Fair Food, we’ve been talking turkey since mid-July. There are vendors and farmers to confirm, marketing materials to design, logistics to consider, and volunteers to recruit. And then there’s the issue of space: This year, in anticipation of our best holiday season yet, we’re renting a refrigerated trailer to store all the produce you could possibly need for your big feast. Plus, we’re also planning a series of tastings throughout October and November, which will highlight some of our favorite locally produced Thanksgiving goodies.

The opening day for Thanksgiving pre-orders is Thursday, October 1st, and shoppers will receive a $0.20/pound discount on select birds reserved on or before October 15th. (Thanksgiving pre-orders will be available for pick-up on Tuesday, November 24 or Wednesday, November 25 at the Farmstand.)

Here’s the low-down on this year’s turkeys:

Naturally Raised Broad-Breasted White from the Howe Turkey Farm (Downingtown, PA) 

Broad-Breasted White turkeys are the most common turkey in the United States, featuring ample breast meat, a leaner overall fat content, and availability in larger weights. The Howes process their own birds at a USDA-inspected facility on-site. These turkeys are sold fresh, never frozen.

Naturally Raised, Free Range Heirloom Bronze from Koch’s Turkey Farm (Tamaqua, PA)

Bronze “Heirloom” Turkeys are a natural cross between heritage breed Bronze Standard turkeys and the more common Broad Breasted Whites. They are larger in size than pure heritage breed turkeys, with a richer, deeper flavor than Broad Breasted White turkeys. These turkeys are sold fresh-frozen.

Naturally Raised Heritage Breed Red Bourbon from Griggstown Farm (Princeton, NJ) 

This breed has not been crossbred for size, and retains the original characteristics of the old-breed: rich, fatty skin, darker meat, and a deeper flavor. These turkeys are sold fresh.

And in addition to turkeys, we’ll also be offering various Thanksgiving extras for pre-order, including:

If you are interested in volunteering at the Farmstand during the week of Thanksgiving, contact Anne Steelman: [email protected].

Stay tuned for more details, and in the meantime, get a head start on your Thanksgiving planning with these handy tools: The Epicurious Thanksgiving Menu PlannerPBS’s Thanksgiving Planning ChecklistFood Network’s Thanksgiving Countdown Planner

Posted August 27th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

I don’t know about you, but to me, back-to-school season always feels like a new beginning. Carefree summer weekends taper off into cooler days, and the start of a fresh school year sparks inspiration for goal setting and exciting adventures (whether you’re a student or not). Though we all start out with the best of intentions, amid the bustle of school and work weeks, healthy eating can easily fall to the wayside.

Here are five healthy make-ahead lunches to power you through this busy time of year:

Jar Salads

Mason jars and cleaned-out tomato sauce or yogurt containers with twist-on lids are perfect for toting salads to work and school–and not only because they look pretty. Their tall, narrow shapes help you layer ingredients and prevent sogginess so you can assemble your lunches a few days ahead, then grab and go. In less than one hour you can prep all of the ingredients for a week’s worth of portable salads (chopped vegetables, cooked grains and/or beans, and homemade dressing). Use quart-size jars for adult portions and pint-size jars for child portions, and pack them in this order:

  1. 1 to 4 tablespoons of dressing
  2. Hard vegetables like carrots, cucumber, squash, green beans, peppers, and radishes, chopped
  3. Cooked beans, hearty grains, or pasta
  4. Cheese and proteins like hard-boiled eggs, tofu, cooked poultry/meat, or tuna
  5. Fruits and softer vegetables like tomatoes and avocados
  6. Nuts, seeds, and lighter grains like quinoa and bulgur
  7. Salad greens like spring mix, arugula, and spinach

If you are including soft or especially perishable ingredients, such as hard-boiled eggs, cheese, cooked meat or poultry, fresh fruits, avocado, and tomato, add them to the jar on the day you plan to eat the salad. Click here and here and here and here and here for some tasty examples of jar salads.


You’ll never be bored at lunchtime if you stock up on Philly MuffinsSlow Rise bread, or Amaranth Bakery‘s gluten-free flatbread, along with a variety of sandwich fixings. For starters, try Soom Foods‘ tahini with roasted bell peppers, PB&Jams‘ cashew or almond butter with a handful of Kauffman‘s Dried Apple Schnitz, or sliced apple with Clover Creek‘s Mature Aged Cheddar cheese and Spruce Hill Preserves‘ hot pepper jelly.

Individual Pot Pies

This idea sounds way more complicated than it really is. With the help of frozen puff pastry or pre-made pie crust, along with a jumbo muffin tin, mini cake pan, or set of ramekins, you can whip up a week’s worth of perfectly portioned chicken pot pies in less than two hours. (Check out this recipe, which uses pie crust, or this one, which uses puff pastry.) Just wrap them tightly in foil, store in the fridge or freezer, and heat them up in the microwave or toaster oven when you’re ready for lunch. And to shake things up, use this method to make individual shepherd’s pies, too.


You might not think of eggs as a portable option for lunch, but when they’re made into a frittata, they become an ideal take-along nosh–sturdy, compact, and delicious warm or cold. Frittatas are great for showcasing all kinds of meats, cheeses, and whatever vegetables are in season. Plus, they’re super inexpensive to make, and they require only half an hour of cooking time. This is a great recipe to begin with and this one will blow you away.


Polenta makes a substantial base for all kinds of lunch options. Cook it in the slow cooker or on the stovetop over the weekend, and divvy it up into individual servings topped with roasted vegetables, stewed beans, tomato sauce, chili, or sautéed greens. For extra color and robust flavor, try Castle Valley‘s Bloody Butcher Polenta.



Posted August 13th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

We all know that peaches, plums, berries, and melons are delicious in baked goods and other sweet applications, but why confine them to the dessert course? Exploring the savory side of summer fruits will shake up your cooking routine and unlock a whole new level of seasonal flavor.

If you’re new to the whole fruit-for-dinner idea, start with something simple like grilled peaches and watermelon with feta and mint. Whip up a batch of blueberry or plum barbecue sauce to slather on ribs, tenderloin, or chicken wings. Or make a breezy meal of grilled clams with Peach, Tomato, and Basil Salad.


Of course, the Farmstand is fully stocked with all the summer fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and meats you need for your savory pursuits–even locally raised clams from Heritage Shellfish Cooperative, which pair surprisingly well with fruity flavors. Swing by for some inspiration, and savor the summer bounty while it lasts!

Here are some savory summer fruit recipes to get you started:






Posted July 2nd, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

Summer_Sweet Corn

Do you have a favorite summer recipe? For me, it’s Ina Garten’s Fresh Corn Salad, tossed with basil, diced red onion, and a simple vinaigrette. I discovered it years ago when I was looking for something easy-yet-impressive to bring to a picnic, and it quickly became my go-to dish for every cookout and potluck of the season. Like other classic hot-weather salads (think capresetabbouleh, and watermelon-feta), its beauty lies in its simplicity–one focal ingredient enhanced by a few complementary flavors. And with yesterday’s arrival of sweet white corn from Fifer Orchards (just in time for the 4th of July weekend!) I see a lot of it in my future.


Of course, corn wasn’t the only exciting new delivery of the week. Yesterday we also received our first crates of yellow cling-stone peaches from Fifer Orchards; Oasis (Lancaster County) rolled up with an order of black raspberries; and Redhead Farms (Hammonton, NJ) brought fragrant flats of red raspberries and blackberries. Plus, we have plenty of blueberries from Blueberry Bill Farm (Hammonton, NJ) and a few more flats of sweet and tart cherries from 3 Springs (Aspers, PA) to round out whatever favorite recipe you’ll be cooking up this weekend.

Whether you’re planning to toss some burgers and hot dogs on the grill, make a vegetarian feast, or construct the perfect Independence Day pie, we’ve got you covered. And if you’re still in the planning phase, here are a few patriotic recipes for inspiration:

Posted June 4th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)


Here we are at the turn of a new growing season, as we place our last orders for strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb and anticipate the first local harvests of cucumbers, peas, green beans, celery, broccoli, blueberries, and more. But before we turn all of our attention to the shiny new items of summer, let’s relish the flavors of late spring, and preserve this sweet season for months to come.

Check out the following tips and recipes for preserving these last spring-crop deliveries–and enjoy them all year long:

ASPARAGUS: To freeze it, make sure you start with very fresh, rigid spears. Rinse them well, blanch them in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, then plunge the blanched spears into a large bowl of ice water for 3 to 4 minutes to stop the cooking and lock in the bright green color. Drain well. Pat the asparagus dry and transfer it to resealable bags or vacuum seal bags. Suck out all the air and freeze for up to 1 year.

Other ways to preserve asparagus:

RHUBARB: To freeze it, trim the stalks, then wash them and pat them dry. Cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces and place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, 2 to 3 hours, then remove from the freezer and transfer the rhubarb to resealable freezer bags or vacuum seal bags. Suck out all the air and freeze for up to 1 year.

Other ways to preserve rhubarb:

STRAWBERRIES: To freeze them, wash and hull the strawberries, and pat them dry. Place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, 2 to 3 hours, then remove from the freezer and transfer the strawberries to resealable freezer bags or vacuum seal bags. Suck out all the air and freeze for up to 1 year.

Other ways to preserve strawberries:


Posted May 21st, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

It’s officially cookout season, and whether you’re throwing your own get-together or bringing a dish to someone else’s, we’re fully stocked with everything you need. See below for a handy guide to crafting a delicious, locally sourced feast, from grilled meats and vegetables to salads, sides, and desserts.



Burgers: We’ve got all kinds of ground meat for your burger-making needs–chicken from Griggstown; turkey from Koch’s; beef from Buck Run, Landisdale, and Philly Cow Share; pork from Sweet Stem; lamb from Jamison; and goat from Stryker. Click here for basic instructions, and click here and here and here and here for extra inspiration. And see below for some tips for pairing cheeses with the different burger meats.

Chicken: The sustainably raised whole chickens from Griggstown and Meadow Run farms are ideal for cooking on the grill. Try your hand at beer can chicken or spatchcocked grilled chicken, both of which are super easy to make and impressively succulent.

Chops and Steaks: Grilled lamb chops (from Jamison) will blow your mind, and the bone-in pork chops from Country Time will also grill up beautifully, with lots of flavor and plenty of moisture (if you do it right). Plus, we’ve got all kinds of steaks from Philly Cow Share and Troutman that are perfect for the grill (see here and here and here for inspiration).

Hot dogs/sausages/brats: From Mosefund’s Smoked Bratwurst and Country Time’s game-changer hot dogs, to Griggstown’s chicken sausage and Stryker and Sweet Stem’s pork sausages and brats, you’ll have no problem filling those hot dog buns. And to ensure that not a morsel goes uneaten, here’s a handy guide to grilling sausages, via Serious Eats.

Shish kabobs: Start with a pack or two of beef cubes (from Troutman) or goat cubes (from Stryker), defrosted. Marinate the meat,* and then thread it onto skewers, along with onions or other vegetables that strike your fancy. Grill the kabobs for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until the meat is cooked to medium-rare. *Try this recipe for goat or lamb, or this recipe for beef.

Vegetarian mains: If you or any of your guests are vegetarian, or if you’re just looking for lighter grilling options, pick up some thick portobello mushrooms (from Mother Earth) or firm tofu (from Fresh Tofu). Marinated tofu is a delicious alternative to burgers and other animal proteins, and grilled portobello mushrooms have a deep, complex flavor that will satisfy even your most fervent meat lovers, too.



Grilled vegetables: Definitely pick up some asparagus (green from Fifer Orchards and purple from LFFC) for grilling, and also some onions (from Tuscarora), scallions (from Trauger’s and Eagle Road Farm), and radishes (from LFFC, Buzby, and Oasis).

Green salads: With Country Hill’s lacinato kale and romaine lettuce, Gehman family’s mixed-head lettuce, Landisdale’s bagged spinach and arugula, Blue Moon’s microgreens, Heritage Farm’s arugula/mustard mix, and LFFC’s watercress, we’re pretty sure we’ve covered all your salad bases. Ask anyone at the Farmstand cheese counter for the best cheeses to add to the mix, and don’t forget to toss in some fresh herbs, too (from Heritage and Oasis farms). Click here and here and here for homemade salad dressing recipes that will complement these amazing local ingredients.

Potato salads: Whether you’re a traditionalist or an adventurer when it comes to potato salad, we’ve got you covered. Use new red or Yukon potatoes (from Country Hill) for American, German, or herbaceous potato salad. Or grab some multicolored sweet potatoes (from Landisdale) for this mustardy version or this one with herbs and arugula.


Beverages: First of all, make herbal or strawberry soda, and be sure to save the strawberry tops to make refreshing infused water. For stronger libations, pick up some lemon balm (from Oasis) for this or this cocktail; basil (from Bux-Mont) for this one; or experiment with rosemary and thyme (from Heritage) and other herbs in mixed drinks of all kinds.

Granitas and ice creams: You don’t need an ice cream maker to whip up some awesome springtime freezer desserts. Here’s a super-simple recipe for Strawberry Granita (from Epicurious), and here’s a recipe for strawberry ice cream, both with and without an ice cream maker.

Baked goods: This is the time for strawberry-rhubarb everything! Try the classic combo as a pie, a bar, a crumble, a crisp, a cobbler, or even a parfait.


**Recommended burger cheeses**

  • Beef: blue cheese; Ely Farm’s Washington Crossing; Keswick’s Wallaby or Frecon; Hidden Hills’ Buttercup or Old Gold; Doe Run’s Seven Sisters or St. Malachi; Connebella’s Horseradish Cheddar or Sharp Cheddar; Wakefield’s Bouche
  • Chicken: blue cheese; Hidden Hills’ Old Gold or Buttercup; Doe Run’s Hickory on the Hill, Seven Sisters, or St. Malachi; Calkins Creamery’s Smoke Signal; Parish Hill’s Idyll; Clover Creek’s Tussey Mountain or Mature Aged Cheddar; Cherry Grove’s Buttercup Brie; Wakefield’s Bouche
  • Goat: Shellbark Hollow’s Sharp Chevre; Yellow Springs Farm’s Cloud Nine, Fieldstone, or Blue Velvet; Misty Creek’s Kidchego; Meadowset’s Camel’s Back
  • Lamb: blue cheese; Hidden Hills’ Bolton Feta; Caputo Bros. Ricotta; Meadowset’s Camel’s Back, First Bite, or Last Straw; Parish Hill’s Suffolk Punch; Ely Farm’s Washington Crossing; Connebella’s Horseradish Cheddar; Roundtop’s Sheep Camembert
  • Pork: Parish Hill’s Idyll; Doe Run’s Hickory on the Hill; Cherry Grove’s Lawrenceville Jack; Goot Essa’s Der Alpen Kase; Clover Creek’s Tussey Mountain or Mature Aged Cheddar; Keswick’s Frecon; Calkin’s Cow Tipper; Wakefield’s Bouche
  • Portobello mushroom “burgers”: Misty Creek’s Kidchego; Meadowset’s Camel’s Back, First Bite, or Last Straw; Ely Farm’s Washington Crossing; Caputo Bros. Ricotta; Connebella Sharp Cheddar; Wakefield’s Bouche; Shellbark Hollow’s Sharp Chevre
  • Turkey: Clover Creek’s Mature Aged Cheddar or Tussey Mountain; Connebella’s Sharp Cheddar; Doe Run’s St. Malachi, Seven Sisters, or Hickory on the Hill; Yellow Spring’s Farm’s Fieldstone; Hidden Hills’ Bolton Feta or Old Gold
  • Veal: Doe Run’s Hickory on the Hill, St. Malachi, or Seven Sisters; Parish Hill’s Idyll or Suffolk Punch; Clover Creek’s Tussey Mountain; Meadowset’s Camel’s Back, First Bite, or Last Straw; Ely Farm’s Washington Crossing; Misty Creek’s Kidchego



Posted May 7th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

As any seasoned gardener will tell you, Mother’s Day weekend is prime time for planting warm season plants. It’s that sweet spot in the year when the soil is fully thawed and still moist from April rain, and the temperatures are above frost point but not high enough to scorch baby leaves and blooms. Plus, planting new flowers and vegetables seems like a good way to honor the one who gave you life, am I right?

To get your spring/summer garden started, head over to the Farmstand for some Bennett Compost (we’ve got 5- and 25-pound bags). Bennett collects food scraps from residences and businesses all over Philadelphia, which they then compost in bins located in gardens around the city.


New to the composting scene? Compost is simply organic matter (leaves and food waste) that has broken down naturally over time into a dark, crumbly substance resembling topsoil. It’s a key ingredient in organic farming, as it naturally improves the structure and health of the soil while serving as a biological control against unwanted pests.

Here are a few ways to use compost in your home garden and backyard:

  • Work 1 to 2 inches of compost into the top 3 inches of soil in all in-ground and container vegetable and flower gardens.
  • Sprinkle a handful of compost in the bottom of each hole when you transfer plants to your garden.
  • When your plants grown to mid-size, spread 1/2 inch of compost around the base of each plant monthly to promote high yields and healthy vegetables.
  • Treat bald spots in your yard by working an inch of compost into the soil and then reseeding.
  • Apply compost as mulch around trees, shrubs, and other plants to prevent weeds, help reduce moisture loss, and stabilize the soil temperature.

Once your gardens, window boxes, and containers are tilled and treated with compost goodness, throw down some Pollinator Project Wildflower Seeds(available now at the ‘stand) for a splash of color. The Pollinator Project was founded by a local beekeeper in response to the staggering decline in honeybee populations, attributed to the widespread use of certain harmful pesticides. Each packet of seeds contains a mix of perennials and annuals that will bloom year-round, creating a sustainable–and safe–energy source for honeybees and other pollinators.

No worries if your thumb is more black than green, or if you don’t think you have the space to garden. Just fill a pot with soil and compost, toss in some of the wildflower seeds, water generously, and set it in a sunny spot. (For other gardening tips and projects, click here or here or here or here.)




Posted April 23rd, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)


Nothing said “Happy Earth Day” better than the 80-pound delivery of asparagus that we received yesterday, fresh-picked from Fifer Orchards. Sturdy, elegant, and tender, each spear reminds me of the strength and tenuousness of our planet, and makes me very thankful for the farmers who practice sustainable methods to grow the food we eat. Plus, after an especially brutal winter, we’re all ready for bright-green, snappy flavors and textures–and asparagus, I think we can all agree, is the poster child of this season.

That being said, however, we’ve got a few other early spring vegetables that deserve to share the spotlight. There are breakfast radishes and arugula/mustard green mix from Sunny Harvest Co-op (Quarryville, PA); red radishes and scallions from Oasis (Lancaster County), spring onions and chives from Heritage Farm (Philly); spinach from Marolda Farms (Vineland, NJ), and field lettuce from the Rodale Institute (Kutztown, PA). And expert forager David Siller just brought in an impressive haul of tightly knotted fiddleheads, sinewy ramps, leafy patience dock, and stinging nettles from all around the area.

While radishes, scallions, salad greens, chives, and asparagus are familiar enough to most home cooks, wild-foraged vegetables may seem a little scary (nettles that sting?) or obscure (fiddle-what?). So, to help you glean the most from this time of year, here’s a quick primer on the less-known delicacies of early spring, plus a few intriguing recipes to get you started:

Fiddleheads are furled-up baby fern fronds, which can be found poking through the soil in early to mid spring, on riverbanks and in dewy meadows all over the Northeast. Their season is very short–a matter of weeks–and they are only available as wild-foraged crops. A word to the wise: Raw fiddleheads can make you sick, so it is important to cook them before eating. Just blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes, then sauté with a pat or two of butter until they are nice and tender. The texture and flavor will remind you of asparagus.

Patience Dock is a long-leafed salad green with mild, lemony flavor that is reminiscent of sorrel, a fellow member of the buckwheat family. It is known for its healing properties and has been used for centuries to detoxify the body, stave off disease, promote good eye sight, and treat skin various disorders. Since patience dock leaves are very tender, they do not take well to sautéing. For best results try them raw in salads, or blanch and stuff them with ground lamb and rice in the Romanian tradition.

Ramps are wild onions that taste like a mix between garlic and leeks. They are one of the first bright things to appear at the farmers’ market each spring, with a super-short season that ends before many people even know it began. Over the past few years they have garnered quite the cult following among chefs and home cooks alike, and–lucky for us–all that hype has led to a wealth of recipes strewn across the interwebs.

Stinging Nettles are flowering herbs with delicious–yet prickly–leaves that can irritate your skin, so make sure to wear gloves when handling them raw. A quick blanch, steam, or sauté will deactivate the nasty stingers and render these greens tender and benign. They are rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, folate, potassium, iron, sulphur, and vitamin C, and they have also been shown to work as a natural antihistamine to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies. As far as flavor goes, think milder, more floral-tasting spinach.

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