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What’s Fresh: Delicious ways to savor the first fruits of spring

By Carolyn Malcoun, May 18, 2010 - 11:49am

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What’s Fresh: Delicious ways to savor the first fruits of spring

There’s something about spring fruits—plump cherries, tart rhubarb, juicy apricots and sweet strawberries—that I just can’t get enough of.

I make sure my neighbor with the unruly rhubarb patch knows she can pawn off any extra on me. When the organic berry patch down the road opens up, I go on several picking sprees to satisfy my urge for fresh berries plus have enough to make jam and to stock my freezer with frozen fruit. And when apricots hit the market, I snatch them up to snack on. (Click here to find out which 12 fruits and vegetables you should buy organic.)

As a recipe tester and food editor at EatingWell, I know that choosing produce at its peak means it’ll taste better and have more nutrients. Here are some delicious recipes for my favorite spring fruits, plus shopping and storage tips, so you get the best flavor and most nutritional bang for your buck!

Cherries
Why we love them: Juicy cherries have a perfect balance of sweet and tart. Starting around mid-May in California and early June in Washington and Oregon, cherries are at their peak.
What you get: Cherries are rich in antioxidants: anthocyanidins, which bolster antioxidant defenses, and quercetin, which may help regulate blood pressure. They are also a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C.
Look for: Select firm, plump cherries that are shiny without soft spots or bruising.
Storage tip: Store fresh cherries in the refrigerator as soon as possible after purchase.
Recipe idea: Cherry-Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate Cookie Crust is a simple summertime sweet treat! Get 7 more amazing fresh cherry recipes here.

Strawberries
Why we love them: Few things are closer to perfection than the first sweet berries of strawberry season. Nothing beats the flavor of a juicy, sun-ripened strawberry right off the vine.
What you get: Just 1 cup of strawberries has a respectable 3 grams of fiber and more than a full day’s recommended dose of vitamin C—an antioxidant that helps keep skin healthy.
Look for: Plump, bright red berries, as white- or green-tipped strawberries are lacking in flavor. Strawberries should be free of mold and bruises. Caps should be attached, green and fresh-looking.
Storage tips: Store berries in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Discard any berries that show signs of mold—it spreads quickly to other berries. Wash the berries gently in cool water just before you plan to eat them, leaving the caps on until after they are washed.
Recipe idea: Who doesn’t love Strawberry Shortcake? Get a healthier recipe here plus more sweet and savory strawberry recipes.

Rhubarb
Why we love it: Rhubarb thrives in cool weather and it’s one of the first plants to mature each spring.
What you get: Full of fiber, potassium and vitamin C, rhubarb also contains catechin, a flavanol that may contribute to heart health.
Look for: Bright, crisp stalks with minimal pitting, dryness and other visible damage. (Only the stalks are edible. High levels of oxalic acid make the leaves inedible.)
Storage tips: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for 1 to 2 weeks.
Recipe idea: I have a weakness for a good fruit pie. Strawberry-rhubarb is one of my favorites. Get the recipe plus easy step-by-step photos to make perfect lattice-topped pies here.

Apricots
Why we love them: Before peaches, plums and berries appear in markets, juicy apricots arrive. Most apricots are destined to be canned or dried, and their season is fleeting, so get fresh ones fast.
What you get: Low in calories and packed with nutrients, just three fresh apricots will give you almost half the vitamin A you need for the day along with a healthy dose of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. In addition, apricots are packed with beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals that damage cells.
Look for: Plump, fairly firm apricots that are orange-yellow to orange. Ripe apricots are soft and juicy—they should be eaten as soon as possible.
Storage tips: To ripen apricots, place the hard fruit in a brown paper bag for one or two days. Ripe apricots should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent overripening.
Recipe idea: Grilled Pork Tenderloin & Apricot Salad is a great simple dinner to make on a warm late-spring evening.

What’s your favorite spring fruit? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Carolyn Malcoun, Health Blog, Dessert, Dinner, What's in season

Carolyn Malcoun
Carolyn Malcoun combines her love of food and writing as a recipe contributor for EatingWell. Carolyn has a culinary arts degree from New England Culinary Institute and a degree in journalism from University of Wisconsin—Madison. Carolyn lives in Burlington, Vermont, and enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking and running in her free time.

Carolyn asks: What’s your favorite spring fruit?

Tell us what you think:

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