Spring’s first tender shoots delight those who love leafy green vegetables — and Western Washington’s recent mild winter has coaxed those sweet, young sprouts out of the soil a bit earlier this season.
“We’ve just started to get some things,” said Dylan Jones in the produce department of the Community Food Co-op’s Cordata store. “It’s been great. Stuff is coming earlier; it’s only the first of April and we already have some options. We have some really beautiful Savoy cabbage and cauliflower from Hedlin Farm in LaConner and some perky spring leeks from Rabbit Fields Farm in Skagit County, the Skagit Flats.”
At Broad Leaf Farm in Everson, Dusty Williams said his asparagus is good right now.
“I also have bok choy and a few of the Chinese vegetables and I’ll have some odds and ends like beets ... in about a month,” said Williams, a regular vendor at the Bellingham Farmers Market.
Nearby at Terra Verde in Everson, farmers Amy and Skuter Fontaine are relishing the mild winter that’s making their spring greens harvest-ready about two weeks early.
“We’ll be heading to the farmers market with a really tender and mildly spicy salad mix, “Amy Fontaine said.
In her fields, she’s savoring the abundance of kale, collards, leeks, garlic greens, green onion, cilantro, rhubarb and kale raab – the budding tops of the plant that is about to flower.
“It’s tender, sweet and kind of crunchy. They’re just delicious and kind of versatile,” Amy Fontaine said. “A sweetness comes out after cold weather. The plant is on its way to making seed, but there’s tender new growth. Things are mild now — juicy and sweet. It’s a nice, delicate time of the year. There’s so much you can do,” she said. “I’m going to make a kale pesto tonight” using sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts.
For recipe suggestions, Amy Fontaine favors the cookbook “Nourishing Meals” by Bellingham nutritionists Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre. Martha Rose Shulman, writing in the March 31 New York Times, offers a vegetarian version of a standard Moroccan tagine (stew) that highlights the best of spring greens. Find it online at http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017328-collard-greens-tagine-with-flageolets.