Spring Greens and Lettuces Stand Out as Farmers Market Opens This Month
The Orinda Farmers’ Market opens on Saturday, April 6. Expect to find a full selection of local, fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables during the upcoming seven-month season.
Spring specials feature strawberries and asparagus, and fall favorites include peppers, grapes and persimmons but you can expect everything from A (apricots) to Z (zucchini). Artisanal food stands also set up each week to offer granola, breads, jams, honey, hummus and coffee.
It’s also time to explore the wide world of spring greens and lettuces — they thrive during the cooler weather. Technically, spring greens are leafy greens that do not form a head or maybe a very loose one. This group of greens includes spinach, bok choy, kale, arugula and chard as well as three somewhat spicy members — mustard, dandelion and daikon greens.
Dandelion greens can be bitter and appreciate long slow cooking— sautéed with garlic and olive oil or simmered in a stew. Daikon greens are tasty in soups.
Other specialty greens are super in salads. Fava leaves add a sugar snap pea-like flavor and the texture of spinach. Pea greens are the tender tips of pea plants and their soft tender leaves, curly cue tendrils and watery stems are wonderful additions to salads, sandwiches and stir fries.
Lettuces falls into four general groups: crisphead, butterhead, loose-leaf and romaine. Each group has its own taste characteristics, but all grow best in a cool weather climate. Crisphead lettuce (iceberg or head lettuce) is a favorite in salads to add crispness, but it lacks the flavor and nutritional value of other varieties.
Butterhead lettuces are also referred to as Bibb, Boston or limestone and offer a delicate, almost buttery flavor. Small, loose formed heads are made up of green outer leaves and creamy colored soft and pliable inner leaves — handle carefully as butterhead lettuce will bruise and tear easily.
Choose loose-leaf lettuce types when you need color and texture. Tender red, dark green or bronze colored leaves branch from a stem rather than forming heads and offer frilled, puckered and smooth textures.
Crunchy romaine or cos lettuce is easy to spot with its large, narrow upright leaves. Outer leaves are slightly coarse and dark green, inner leaves are greenish white — a must for your Caesar salad.