There’s just something about Springtime that takes me back to my very first flavor-obsession: Red Huckleberries (Vaccinium parvifolium). The berries were perfect for picking in the late Spring, and were the star of many-a-show in my childhood memories. My brothers and I would be sent into the forested area that surrounded our family’s cabin in Northern Oregon, to pick the biggest, juiciest, and brightest Red Huckleberries we could find. These would be turned into pies, cobblers and jams by my grandmother.
Only found in very few locations in the Pacific Northwest, the Red Huckleberry is known in some parts of the world as a myth! My father would tell us stories about arguing their validity with townspeople in other parts of Oregon and California. “Huckleberries don’t come in RED, they only come in BLUE”, they would proclaim indignantly. The stories would leave us kids baffled! After all, here we were harvesting RED HUCKLEBERRIES! Buckets of them! Dad had a way of making us feel like part of the mystery, which made our treasured Huckleberry treats that much more appealing.
It seems that everyone has a favorite Springtime food, and I don’t think it’s a puzzler as to why. After eating root vegetables and heavy winter dishes that made our hearts smile (and kept our bellies full) all winter long, we are instinctively starting to crave the freshness that Springtime brings. It’s an intuitive, natural, and perfunctory reaction to our surroundings. The sun is providing us with essential Vitamin D, and we’re ready to dive (taste buds first) into SPRINGTIME!
The earth has been cleansed after months of rain and snow, and now our pallets are ready to be cleansed with the Vernal abundance that mother nature offers. In the same way we long to see our springtime flowers bloom, we also yearn for the fresh, seasonal flavors that Springtime makes available to us.
Farmers markets are bustling. Festivals are popping up all around us. Strawberries are being added to fresh, farm-stand salads and innovative chilled soups! Asparagus spears are starting to make all-star appearances on the menus of our favorite restaurants; from fire-roasted versions of the healthful delight, to lightening up otherwise heavy pasta dishes. Artichokes are being used in artful, edgy ways they never have before; testing limits and provoking the pickiest of boundaries. Rhubarb is making its way into tarts, pies, compotes, and even meat marinades! Traditional springtime meats like Lamb are being continually modernized with sweet and spicy balances like Honey and Habanero peppers.
So…whether its traditional, “how grandma used to make it”, nostalgia you desire, or the perpetually updated evolution of “the classics”…SINK YOUR TEETH IN! It’s at our fingertips!
Check out your local farmers markets, and let me know your favorites! Here are a few of mine:
Downtown Sacramento Certified Farmers Market:
Fair Oaks Farmers Market:
Sprouts Farmers Market Roseville: