spring produce and spring cleaning

4 April, 2010 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Yesterday was a glorious Oregon day. It had a bit of rain, some sun, plenty of clouds…but most of all, fresh spring air, which put me in the mood for two things: the first farmers market of the year, and some spring cleaning.

I started the day with the long-awaited opening of the Saturday Market. We had gone on an enormous grocery run the day before to reload our pantry and fridge with staples, bread, cheese, meats, and all manner of good things, but I exercised almost total restraint in the produce department (except for an amazing looking mango I couldn’t part with), knowing that the market could not be topped.

I spent under 15 bucks and came home with a giant bag of loot that will totally keep us going this week. I got some lovely looking spring greens including mâche, a favorite from France, and some pea shoots that totally outdid the ones I’ve been buying at the store. I got some beautiful little carrots, some French breakfast radishes (don’t they look more elegant than regular radishes?), and some spring garlic that smelled so good I wanted to cook some kind of savory garlic dinner at 9 am. Oh yeah, and some awesome looking baby bok choy and, maybe the best part, a head of purple sprouting broccoli, which I’ve been dying to try since Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall talked it up so much on River Cottage.  And there were so many more things available, it was really hard to stop myself from buying a whole second bag worth of stuff (definitely going to go back next week for some of the baby florettes of brussels sprouts, kale, and collards I was seeing).

All this spring produce gives me tons of ideas in the kitchen, but it also got me thinking about how wonderful it is to cook and eat something seasonal that you know was just harvested within hours of when you bought it, and how even better it is to cook and eat something that you just harvested yourself, immediately prior to cooking it. To my dismay, this year all we have is a tiny, north-facing ledge at the top of the external staircase that leads to our apartment, and I’ve already crammed as many plants as I can up there. What about the rest of you, are you growing this year? We have a little bowl of spinach plants and a little herb planter that perch on our balcony railing and are surviving on the little sliver of sun they get around 5 pm each day when the sun gets westerly enough to shine over the roof. It’s not much, but it gives us a little dose of springy green, and they’re pretty low maintenance, and the best part is that all I have to do is open the door to pick a sprig of thyme, parsley or rosemary when I’m cooking. There’s nothing I hate more than paying 3 dollars for a little plastic container of herbs when I only need a teaspoon and then seeing it go bad in the fridge, especially when it only costs 3 dollars (or less) to buy the plant instead and keep a steady supply for most of the year! Plus herbs are really easy to grow, so if you’ve never grown any before, try getting yourself a little planter box this year!

Now, what about that spring cleaning part? We’ve been letting our fridge and pantry hang for a couple months without much attention, and I am normally pretty lazy about those kinds of cleaning jobs because it’s just far too easy to let it go and just cram more food on top of the borderline stuff that you should probably throw out. But there’s nothing like a big influx of amazing fresh food to make you realize that it’s time to take out the trash to make room for the good stuff. Besides, when I just throw new stuff in on top of old-ish food, I can’t see anything in there and we end up wasting stuff! So what better time than spring to start with a clean slate. What about the rest of you, have you been spring cleaning in the kitchen? I’ve found it’s making me way more motivated about cooking.

Happy Spring, everyone!

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Entry filed under: blogging.

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