Fresh asparagus starts showing up in stores in early spring, but the peak harvest and consumption happens in April and May.
The delicate spears are available in green, white, purple, and a combination of purple and green. Most asparagus produced and consumed in the United States is green in color.
While frozen and canned asparagus are available for purchase, fresh asparagus is the preferred product for most.
The cultivar, growing conditions, and postharvest handling and storage all play a role in the quality and flavor profile. Texture is the main quality indicator for fresh spears. Additionally, the highest quality product exhibits a nice balance of sweet and bitter flavor.
Fresh asparagus can be eaten raw, typically sliced very thin and dressed with a flavorful vinaigrette.
Fresh asparagus spears, when cooked, transform from a somewhat dull color to vibrant green. Asparagus can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques including blanching, boiling, steaming, sautéing, roasting, and grilling.
Avocado are handpicked when ripe using special equipment. The ripe fruit is firm when harvested. The highest quality specimens are packaged for supermarket purchase. Fresh avocado is the preferred product for consumers. Processed avocado products include frozen slices and sauces, puree, guacamole, and avocado oil.
Once picked, avocado ripens quickly at room temperature. As the avocado ripens, the skin color changes. The Hass variety of avocado, for example, changes from green to black. The flesh softens, changes color, flavor and texture.
The avocado, also known as butter pear, at the perfect ripeness has a soft delicately creamy texture and flavor. And although the avocado is technically a fruit, the flavor is not sweet.
Most avocado is consumed raw in salads and prepared in dips such as guacamole. The buttery texture of avocado flesh makes it a favorite for adorning sandwiches and soups.
When avocado is cooked, it is usually done very quickly with a cooking technique such as sautéing or grilling. Both of these techniques, when properly executed, heat the avocado through without altering the firmness of the flesh, at the same time they caramelize the flesh for additional flavor.
Fava or broad beans are available for a short period of time each spring. Harvested when they are still tender, the beans have a smooth, rich flavor.
Preparing fava beans for most recipe preparations requires a bit of work. The beans must be removed from their pods and then from a light skin surrounding each individual bean.
The pods are removed like peas are removed from their pods. Run a finger nail along the entire length in n the seam of the pod, splitting it open and removing the individual beans.
The skin surrounding the beans is easily removed if the beans are blanched for 30 seconds in hot water and immediately submerged in ice water to stop the cooking. At this point the skin falls off fairly easily when pinched between two fingers.
Leeks are in the genus Allium, which includes onions, shallots, and garlic. 1 to 2 inches in diameter and over a foot long, leeks resemble giant scallions. The cylinder shaped leek has dozens of very thin white layers at its base that flow gradually into thicker flat green leaves. The white base has a stronger flavor than the green leaves.
Leeks harbor a lot of dirt inside the leaves. The leek can be sliced lengthwise from its green leaves to its white base, stopping short of cutting through the stem. This allows rinsing the leek between its layers, leaving the leek intact. A second method, often employed in soup making, is to cut the leek into ½-inch rounds that can be laid flat and halved or quartered. The thin layers can easily be separated, and rinsed in a colander. Any undesirable pieces can be identified and discarded.