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Freshen Up Your Spring Menu with Seasonal Vegetables

As warm weather (and bathing suit season) approaches, many restaurant patrons are looking for lighter, healthier fare that is still tasty.  We’ve found some great recipes using seasonal veggies that you may have used in the past and a few you may have never knew were edible to put some flare into your Spring and Summer menu.

Spicing Up the Seasonal Standbys:

Image from MorgueFileFreshening up your menu for the season with salads is always a great idea.  But what if your customers are a little sick of the average house and Caesar options?   One suggestion from usfoodsight.com is to add a customized salad to your list.  Customized salads are a great way to allow patrons to pick and choose their way to the ideal salad while cutting down on the mess of a salad bar.  Simply list the different types of lettuce, veggies, proteins and other toppings and let the customer make a dish that perfectly suits their mood.

But what about those boring steamed vegetables as a side?   Vegetables can become more exciting with some of the great recipes we’ve found below.  We’ve also thrown in a handy guide on the best times to add/edit the vegetables on your menu and for those health conscious customers you’ll even be ready with the items nutritional benefits.

Zucchini

Food Fact: Zucchini is
actually a fruit.

Harvest Period: May through July

Health Benefits: Low in calories and high in zinc, magnesium, fiber
and Vitamin C.  According to Veggication.com, it also has more potassium than bananas!

Recipe to try: Zucchini Oven Chips from Myrecipes.com

Image from MorgueFileAsparagus

Buying Tip: A Better Bag of Groceries advises, “Sniff your asparagus while in the store.  That’s right, sniff it.  If it smells fishy, put it back.  The tips should be nice and firm, not at all mushy.”

Harvest Period:  Available all year, but best from Mid-April to Mid-June

Health Benefits: High in fiber, low in fat.  Great source of Vitamins C,  K, B6 and A and minerals like magnesium, selenium and zinc.   Healthcorps.org also says it’s also helpful with lowering  blood pressure.

Recipe to try:  Pan Roasted Asparagus from Chop Chop Magazine

Ramps (or Wild Leeks)

Food Fact: Since they can be overharvested, the sale of ramps has been banned in Quebec since 1995, according to Eater.com.

Harvest Period:  Very short period of a few weeks from late April to early June

Health Benefits: High in Vitamins A, C and Selenium

Recipe to try:  Ramp and Carmalized Shallot Pesto Pasta from SeasonalChef.com

Rhubarb

Buying Tip: “Fresh stalks are flat, not curled or limp. Deep red stalks are sweeter and richer,” guides Fruitsndveggiesmatter.org.

Harvest Period:  March to   the end of June

Health Benefits: Great source of Vitamin C and Calcium

Recipe to try:  Rhubarb-strawberry-apple Crumble from Eat, Live, Run

Surprising Customers with Something Different:

While it’s not out of the ordinary to update the average vegetable to something a bit more stimulating, you may be looking for something a bit more intriguing to make your dishes and restaurant stand out.  The good news is you may not have to look any further than a local field or even your own backyard.  Two great items to liven fresh dishes with are buds from the Red Bud tree and Cattail Stalks.

Most people have seen both items millions of times, but never realized they were edible.  The Hounds in the Kitchen blog recommends red buds, “Can be picked and eaten out of hand, tossed into salad, or baked into eggs or pancakes.”  Their sweet, slightly tangy flavor is best found when buds are picked just before the petals open.   Factoidz.com suggests that Cattail Stalks are great raw in salads, pickled or even steamed (for a taste like cabbage).

With these fresh takes on old favorites and new backyard ingredients up your sleeve, the warm spring and summer months can be healthy while being anything but boring for both restaurants and guests.

Do you have a favorite summer recipes or new edible item?   Share them with us in the comments below!

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