Is Your Kitchen Ready for Spring?

For the winter-weary grocery store patron, nothing announces spring like the annual arrival of two produce favorites. Standing in rows like tall soldiers are the dark green stalks of asparagus with their tender tips. Usually nearby are the heaping green baskets of red strawberries bursting with flavor and culinary potential. Chefs are quick to incorporate these annual spring heralds into a variety of creative recipes.

The Asparagus: Culinary Companion to Spring Cooking

Not a newcomer to the vegetable family, asparagus originated in the Eastern Mediterranean over 2,000 years ago. The popularity of this spear-shaped delicacy led to a culinary migration to Europe and America. An international favorite, asparagus are now primarily grown in California, Washington, and Michigan. Chefs have the option of cooking with either the green or the white asparagus and choosing from the pencil-thin to the jumbo size. There are many ways to cook asparagus, which can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, microwaved, baked, or grilled. Typically a vegetable side dish, creative chefs use these spring greens in soups, salads, and pastas.

The Strawberry: Spring Muse for Chefs

Foodies argue whether the strawberry's claim to be the most popular berry is due to its bright red heart shape, or to its sweet taste, or to its association with delectable desserts. Over 600 varieties of the strawberry exist, and this little fruit has lots of health benefits as well. California is the leading grower of strawberries, with 1.6 billion pounds produced in 2005. Strawberry shortcake, strawberry shakes, and chocolate covered strawberries are regulars on the refined dessert menu.

Students in culinary arts programs continually receive information about the endless ingredients available for cooking. Incorporating produce, such as asparagus or strawberries, in their prime highlights a chef's ability to cook with the seasons.