This article was originally published on dLife.com—a website dedicated to helping people with diabetes live happier and healthier lives—as “Spring Superfoods,” and is reposted with permission from the author.
Spring vegetables, fruits, and herbs wake our taste buds and energize our spirits after winter. Many are also superfoods that help protect against heart disease, diabetes and its complications, and even cancer.
April's alliums and radishes have sprightly flavors. Asparagus, the most seasonal of vegetables, has a natural sweetness, while mushrooms have umami flavors -- earthy, meaty and satisfying. June's gentle days call for celebrating the simple pleasure of sweet strawberries. Learn how to make the most of spring's bounty.
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Allium is the fancy, Latin name for the onion family. Spring onions, ramps, scallions, green garlic, and chives send their thin, spikey leaves up through the earth in early spring. They are legendary flavor enhancers -- sharp when raw and increasingly sweet as cooked.
Not only do they make food taste good, this family of vegetables boasts an incredible array of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties.
Hint: Unlike the paper-skinned storage onions available year-round, the fresh, round bulbs of spring onions need to be refrigerated. Add raw, chopped spring onion to your favorite salsa recipe for heat, bite and crunch.
Green garlic is simply garlic -- full of all the same health benefits -- that's harvested while the bulb is immature. Blend green garlic with walnuts, salt, olive oil and grated cheese to make what the French call pistou. Add a dollop of pistou to vegetable and bean soup to boost richness and flavor.
To make early spring vegetarian soup, simmer spring onions or chopped leeks (another member of the allium family) in salted water for 30 minutes, add drained canned cannellini beans and fresh, early spring greens like chicory or dandelion. Add a dollop of green garlic pistou before serving.
Scallions and chives are best chopped and sprinkled over dishes at the end of cooking. They're welcome almost everywhere -- sprinkled over grains, in eggs, on vegetables, poultry, fish, and meat.
Ramps are onion's country cousin, a wild onion that grows in moist areas in the spring. Both the leaves and stalk are edible, and the flavor is a cross between onion and garlic. Ramps have become spring's "it" vegetable, a favorite of high-end chefs. Look for them in farmer's markets.
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Cheerful, cute, curved radishes flourish in cool, early spring. One cup of sliced raw radishes contains 4 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber, and is a very good source of vitamin C. To complement their peppery flavor, serve small radishes whole with a ramekin of chive butter. Make this by mixing softened butter with fresh, chopped chives, and season with salt and pepper. Or make a perky, pink salad of grated radishes tossed with apple-cider vinaigrette.
No other vegetable tastes so good just picked. It's best eaten with 24 hours of harvest. Did you know asparagus keeps growing after it's picked? It begins losing tenderness and juiciness quickly and can become tough and fibrous. If you can only find older asparagus (you'll notice the bottoms of the stalks are dried out), cut off the tough ends and soak the spears in water before cooking.
One-half cup of cooked asparagus contains 3.7 grams of carbohydrates and 1.8 grams of fiber. Asparagus contains an array of nutrients and compounds that may improve cardiovascular health, fight cancer, and moderate blood sugar levels.
Asparagus and spring mushrooms (see next slide) are a culinary match made in heaven. Top with chives (more uses for chives!) -- which you can leave long for drama -- or edible purple chive blossoms.
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They can be the main event (mushroom soup or bisque), a flavor booster (mushroom sauce), or anything in between. Experiment with the many varieties on the market -- portobello, oyster, chanterelle, shiitake, and more. The Chinese have believed in the medicinal value of mushrooms since ancient times, and modern research has confirmed their impressive health benefits.
One cup of chopped cooked mushrooms has 8 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber.
Juicy, sweet strawberries are showing up on salad plates more and more these days. Toss sliced berries over greens, toasted nuts, and dot with goat cheese for an elegant starter. For dessert, there's nothing better than strawberries and cream -- whipped or just poured on. Dust or not with the sweetener of your choice.
Rainy weather can dilute the flavor of strawberries. Hint: If you get a batch that's not as sweet as you liked, bake them into a fruit crumble. Sprinkle with a mixture of oats, butter, and brown sugar substitute. Bake until it bubbles.
One cup of raw strawberries cut in half has 11.7 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber.