The latter part of spring and early bits of summer can be misleading when it comes to the fresh ingredients we crave and what’s actually available locally. Items like summer squash, colourful leaves of swiss chard and freshly harvested sweet heirloom tomatoes are still weeks away from being available in Calgary markets and grocery stores, but there are always a few eager growers on the front lines.

Here are five great ingredients you will be able to find fresh at any farmers’ market or locally-minded grocer during the month of June.

Asparagus

Having one of the shortest windows out of most fruits and vegetables, when asparagus is in season, you need to be aware and get it before its gone. So, go get it! All of the markets in the city should be boasting bundles of this delicious, stalk-y vegetable for the next few weeks. One of the best things about cooking asparagus is that it is best when used in simple applications. Giving it a quick grill on the barbecue and serving it with some fresh buffalo mozzarella, a hit of citrus or apple cider vinegar and a drizzle of cold-pressed canola is all you need.

Recently, I was at an event where servers were walking around serving huge asparagus spears as canapes. They were simply roasted and seasoned with salt and pepper. You shine, asparagus. You shine.

Try this charred asparagus panzanella salad recipe.

Fiddleheads

One of the first “vegetables” to emerge in the springtime, these baby ferns are currently readily available at places like the Calgary Farmers’ Market as well as locally minded grocers like Calgary Co-op. Not everyone loves the distinct taste of these interesting little spirals (in fact, some people detest them), but I enjoy them. Prior to using them in a meal, they always need a good rinse and a short steam or boil in water. After that, fiddleheads love a quick sauté with plenty of butter and a splash of white wine. In general, a general baseline to go with here is that pretty much any you can cook fresh green beans, you can cook fiddleheads.

Try this sautéed fiddlehead and mushroom gnocchi recipe.

Rhubarb Alberta grown

photo courtesy of Flickr.

Rhubarb

Alright, so rhubarb will be in abundance well into the fall, but coming out of our drawn out winter-like spring (lest we forget it snowed last week), there is nothing like cooking with fresh, local ingredients. These days, many chefs are opting to use rhubarb for its tartness in lieu of out of season lemons and limes grown abroad. Sweeten it up in a pot with some sugar or maple syrup and a touch of vanilla to spoon over ice cream (if you haven’t tried Made By Marcus’ offerings yet, swing by for a jar or two) or use it in a quick pickle application and use it as a compliment to barbecued chicken or pork tenderloin.

Try this rhubarb custard pie recipe.

Spinach

If you don’t know how to use spinach, I’m sorry to say that there may be no helping you in the culinary department! Jokes aside, this Popeye-approved green is no stranger to our fridges, spinach is a staple for most people, but mid-June is when you’ll find it freshly picked, ready and waiting at a market stand. To savour it at its freshest, just use it in a simple salad with basic vinaigrette and maybe some nuts or crispy lardons for a little texture.

Try this spinach, blueberry and lentil salad recipe.

Spring Peas

Also expected mid-June, spring peas embody the wonderfully fresh flavour we look for in seasonal fare. They are the perfect addition to a basic cream-based risotto along with some fresh spinach or roasted mushroom and make a great compliment to lamb chops or lamb roast when cooked until tender in some stock, puréed and boosted with a little bit of creme fraiche and a touch of mint.

Try this green herb lamb roast with fresh peas.

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