Delicate spring peas are a classic kid-favorite and an easy addition to many of our favorite recipes.
Buy: When buying fresh peas, look for brightly colored pods with no dry scarring. Snap one in half -- they should be crisp and juicy when broken.
Store: Keep peas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and wash them just before cooking.
Prepare: Peas are often boiled or steamed to soften them up and bring out the natural sweetness. Transfer to cold water immediately after cooking to keep them crisp and bright green. English peas have a tough pod and need to be shelled, but many other varieties can be eaten pod and all. Toss them into pasta or serve them as a stand-alone side dish.
The arrival of asparagus in spring is marked with celebration in many European countries. For only about 40 calories per cup, this tender plant is an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, vitamin C and vitamin A.
Buy: Look for firm, closed tips, freshly cut ends, and a grassy smell.
Store: Wrap the bottom of the bunch with a damp paper towel. Place in a plastic bag, towel end first, and refrigerate.
Prepare: Snap off the tough, woody end of each stalk before cooking. Asparagus needs about 5 to 7 minutes to steam, depending on its thickness. Asparagus is also perfect for roasting and grilling.
Artichokes take a little work, but the payoff is delicious.
Buy: The bigger the artichoke, the bigger the heart (most folks' favorite part), but don't discount smaller heads. The leaves on the head should be tightly packed; avoid artichokes with splayed leaves. Fresh artichokes are firm around the middle, so give them a squeeze to test for firmness before purchasing.
Store: Artichokes look tough, but they can be prone to wilting. Keep them moist and cold by storing in a plastic bag in the coldest part of the fridge.
Prepare: Artichokes can be served whole, with the leaves on, or you can trim the leaves down to get to the heart. Poaching in an acidic liquid like lemon water or white wine adds lots of flavor.
It's easy to see why crowns of broccoli, which has long been hailed as a cancer fighter, are king. It's hard to go wrong with this family-friendly veggie that stands out in any dish.
Buy: Heads should have tight, firm florets with consistent color. Look for perky leaves along the stem and steer clear of stalks with black spots (a sign of developing mold).
Store: Poke a few holes in the plastic bag used to hold your broccoli and keep it in the coldest part of the fridge.
Prepare: Soak broccoli in warm water and scrub gently to get rid of dirt. Broccoli is best when cooked through but still crisp. It's an extremely versatile veggie -- try it roasted, grilled, saut?ed, or steamed.
For a burst of flavor and nutrients, fresh herbs are key. Growing your own in a container garden by your kitchen window is a great way to have them all year-round.
Buy: Herbs should be brightly colored, with fresh-looking stems. Avoid any bunches with leaves that look yellow or black.
Store: Fresh herbs are delicate, so handle with care. Most herbs should be wrapped loosely in paper towel and kept in a plastic bag inside the fridge. Put basil stems in a glass of water, cover with a plastic bag, and refrigerate.
Prepare: Add more delicate herbs like basil, mint, oregano, cilantro, parsley, sage, and tarragon to dishes toward the end of cooking. Heartier herbs such as bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme can stand up to cooking and can be added at the beginning or middle of making a dish. Chopping or tearing the herbs will help to release their flavors.