Nutritious Spring Crops
Early spring crops, such as spinach, asparagus and peas, provide a wealth of nutrition in addition to the wonderful flavors of the season.
Try these foods while their flavors are at their best.
Asparagus is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, with more nutrients than almost any other vegetable.
- One cup provides 114% of your RDA of vitamin K, 70% of potassium, 66% of folate, 60% of vitamin C and 20% of vitamin A,vitamin C.
- Asparagus contains minerals such as iron, selenium, copper, and zinc.
- It is an important source of inulin, a special type of carbohydrate that helps healthy intestinal bacteria flourish to promote intestinal health.
- Asparagus is a good source of fiber and has only around 4 calories per spear.
Spinach, like all dark, leafy greens, is a nutrition powerhouse.
- One cup of cooked spinach (approximately four cups of raw spinach) contains 1,000% of the RDA for vitamin K and 377% of vitamin A, 84% of manganese, 66% of folate, 39% of magnesium, 36% of iron and 29% of vitamin C.
- Its flavonoids and antioxidants protect your vision and aid in cancer prevention, and enzymes in spinach help lower blood pressure and fight inflammation.
It’s easy to add spinach to a variety of dishes: mix chopped spinach into pasta sauce, add spinach leaves to a sandwich, or toss a handful of baby spinach into a smoothie.
Romaine lettuce, like spinach, contains iron, which is important for red blood cell production and cell regeneration.
- Two cups gives you around 10% of your daily requirement of iron, 33% of folate, plus vitamins A and K.
Peas are incredibly versatile – you can eat them raw in the pod, for a crunchy, sweet snack. Cooked in the pod or out, they add color and fiber to a vast array of dishes and are a staple in recipes from around the world.
- One cup of pea pods has only 41 calories and gives you nearly 100% of your vitamin C, 31% of vitamin K, 21% of vitamin A and 10% of your recommended daily fiber intake.
- Peas also contain several B vitamins plus minerals like manganese, folate, iron, magnesium and potassium.
- Peas are a good vegetable source of protein with 5 grams in a cup of pods and 8 grams in a cup of shelled peas.
Rhubarb is tart, which is why it pairs so well with sweet strawberries in desserts like the classic strawberry-rhubarb pie. Rhubarb is also a great addition to main dishes and salads. Only the red rhubarb stalks are edible; the leaves are poisonous.
- The red color of rhubarb stalks comes from disease-preventing antioxidants, including lycopene in cooked rhubarb.
- Rhubarb is also high in bone-building calcium with 105 mg in a cup, about 10% of your daily requirement.
- It is low in carbohydrates with only 6 g in a cup of raw rhubarb, and that cup also contains 2 grams of fiber.
- It is also high in vitamin C with 16% of the RDA and 45% of vitamin K.
These early spring crops are all relatively easy to grow. Spinach, lettuce and peas can be grown in a garden plot or even in a planter with a trellis for the pea vines.
Asparagus and rhubarb are great to plant in your home garden because they are perennials and will come back year after year, although you cannot harvest asparagus until the second year.
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