April showers bring more than just May flowers. Spring is the first chance to put many in-season vegetables and fruits on your shopping list. Asparagus, artichokes, mangoes and strawberries are stepping into the spotlight.
But just how do you pick these spring specialties? Phil D’Angelo, produce team leader at Whole Foods Market Rocky River, says you have to use your senses. “Pick it up, feel it – even listen to it! Color, density and sometimes the sound a fruit or vegetable makes can guide you in the right direction.”
Whether it is grilled, sautéed, or roasted, asparagus always brightens up a plate. You’ll want to look for vivid green spears with tight tips. “I suggest buying asparagus right before you plan to use it,” said D’Angelo. “If you need to refrigerate it, place the spears in an upright container with a little water.”
Go ahead, squeeze that artichoke next time you’re shopping (just be careful to avoid the spiny leaves). If it squeaks, it’s ready to eat! Artichokes should be dark green with closed leaves. But, if you are selecting an heirloom variety, know that those leaves tend to spread open more than other varieties. Finally, choose a globe that is heavy for its size.
It’s hard to miss the gorgeous, bright red color of strawberries, but you’ll want to pay attention to the color of the green caps as well. The caps should be vibrant green. Also, pick strawberries that are evenly colored, firm and juicy looking.
Color is not always the best indicator of whether or not a mango is ready to eat. “There are so many varieties of mango that range in color, so you’ll want to feel for ripeness,” said D’Angelo. “Squeeze it gently, it should have a little give, like a ready-to-eat avocado." Champagne or Ataúlfo mangoes are in season now, a variety that wrinkles when ripe.
Regardless of season, Whole Foods Market produce experts suggest opting for fruits and vegetables that support farmers, the environment, and your health. “That’s what our Responsibly Grown program aims to do," said D’Angelo. “It encourages better practices with regard to pest control, recycling, water use and work conditions. It benefits all of us.”
Lisa Sweeney is the marketing team leader for Whole Foods Market Rocky River and a Rocky River resident.