7 of Our Favorite Farmers’ Market Spring Vegetables

A guide to picking the best vegetables at your farmers’ market this spring.

Published June 6, 2020.

Whenever I have the opportunity to buy direct, I do. I refuse to get my produce from the grocery store during the spring and summer because there is a better option available during these seasons: the farmers’ market. Like most home cooks, I prefer to buy the freshest in-season vegetables and fruits, and farmers’ markets make that possible. Produce bought directly from farmers is handled by fewer people and spends less time in transport and storage. This translates into cleaner, fresher produce. Clearly, less is more.

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Check out the seven vegetables we’re excited to bring home from the farmers’ market this spring. 

1. Artichokes

Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Butter
Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Butter from Cook’s Country

Artichokes are far more user-friendly than they appear. Our books team even wrote an entire chapter about them in our inspiring guide, Vegetables Illustrated. The chapter takes a deep dive into all things artichoke: which parts of the vegetable are edible and which ones aren’t; how to prep and store it; foolproof recipes; and, more important, when and how to shop for it. 

Because springtime is this vegetable’s prime season, you’ll find artichokes of all sizes at the farmers’ market. In the test kitchen, we like medium artichokes for braising, roasting, and grilling, while small ones are ideal for making tender marinated artichokes. With endless options, your artichoke adventures are guaranteed to be amazing this spring.

SHOPPING TIP: When selecting fresh artichokes, look for leaves that are tight, compact, and bright green.

2. Fava Beans

Fava Beans with Artichokes, Asparagus, and Peas
Fava Beans with Artichokes, Asparagus, and Peas from The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook

These beans are the highlight of spring. If youre familiar with them, you probably know that they are a staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. They are oftentimes sautéed with garlic in oil, boiled and served cold in salads, or cooked and pureed into a spread in these styles of cooking. Young fava beans have a tender and sweet flavor; larger beans can be woody and sulfurous.

SHOPPING TIP: Fava beans are in season from mid- to late spring. Avoid any fava beans with brown spots or overly large beans that are bulging out of the pods (those beans will be tough and woody).

3. Scallions

Rice Noodle Bowl with Pork and Scallions
Rice Noodle Bowl with Pork and Scallions from Cook’s Country

I love scallions. Lucky for me—and for those who share this deep affection—they can be eaten fresh or cooked. They’re my go-to garnish for soups and rice noodle bowls, my favorite stir-in for mashed potatoes, and my best excuse for making scallion pancakes from scratch.

Scallions are normally available year-round at the grocery store, but spring through fall is their time to shine, especially at farmers’ markets. They range in size, but we encourage you to always go for medium-size scallions if you’re seeking optimal flavor.

And don’t get all tied up with names: Scallions are also known as green onions, salad onions, and green shallots. You may have also heard them referred to as spring onions before, but those are different—sort of.

SHOPPING TIP: When shopping for scallions, look for ones with green ends that are firm and brightly colored.

4. Radishes

Roasted Radishes with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce
Roasted Radishes with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce from Vegetables Illustrated

You can add radishes to salads, serve them as crudités, or use them as garnishes, but I get the impression that many people don’t know how to cook with this vegetable. There’s so much more you can do with radishes. The heat of cooking changes this vegetable completely, so we like to braise them in a little bit of broth with shallots and chives or sauté them in butter with chili and lime. As you can see from the image above, they make for a beautiful presentation when roasted, too.  

Cherry Belle radishes—the round red versions you normally see in supermarkets—are harvested in both spring and fall. So I encourage you to get to your nearest farmers’ market this weekend to grab yourself some freshly harvested radishes and try cooking them in new ways.

SHOPPING TIP: Try to buy radishes with their greens attached. If the greens are healthy and crisp, this means that the radishes will be crisp, too.

5. Peas

Pea Green Salad with Apricot-Pistachio Vinaigrette
Pea Green Salad with Apricot-Pistachio Vinaigrette from Vegetables Illustrated

Were all familiar with plump and sweet English peas; they are a staple vegetable of late spring and early summer. Freshly picked English peas can taste as sweet as candy. However, its important to note that fresh peas turn starchy and lose their nutrients quickly.

Thats why its best to shop for fresh English peas at farmers markets during peak season; if you cant find the sweet versions, you can opt for the frozen kind found at the grocery store. Depending on when youre shopping for them, green peas are one of the rare vegetables that taste just as good (or better) when frozen. 

SHOPPING TIP: Look for fresh peas at the farmers markets in the springtime and early summer, and dont hesitate to ask the vendor when they were picked and if you can taste them before you buy.

6. Leeks

Braised Leeks
Braised Leeks from Cook’s Country

Leeks don’t get as much positive attention as they should. In France, they’re often called the "asparagus of the poor," and in the United States, they’re often overlooked, used only in soups or in flavor bases for other dishes. In the test kitchen, we like to use them for those things, too, but we know that this vegetable can stand tall on its own.

SHOPPING TIP: Leeks are traditionally in season from spring through fall. Make sure to look for firm stalks with crisp, dark-green leaves and healthy-looking attached roots. Avoid leeks that have had their green parts trimmed. 

7. Fiddleheads

Fresh fiddleheads
Fresh fiddleheads pictured in Vegetables Illustrated

Out of all the foraged greens, fiddleheads are definitely the most beautiful. Theyre so named for their resemblance to the scroll of a violin. Have you ever heard of anything more divine? I havent.

For many, the brief annual appearance of fiddleheads is the true sign of spring. They might be a little pricey at farmers markets, but with good reason: Their high price reflects the fact that they’re wild, delicate, and highly perishable; plus, their season is short. And by short, we mean short: In most areas, they are around for two to three weeks at most. If you see fiddleheads at your farmers market, you should grab them. 

SHOPPING TIP: Look for fiddleheads that are tightly coiled and bright green with no browning. 

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