Hop Into Spring With These Five Seasonal Vegetables

The Beijinger| Updated: April 9, 2021

Spoiled by technology and the marvels of modern agriculture, nowadays we can find almost every type of produce all year round in the supermarket, be it seasonal or not. However, food that is in season is fresher, tastier, and healthier than at other times of the year because there's less chance of it having been subjected to long-distance delivery or harmful preservation techniques. Enrich your springtime menu with these vegetables currently in season.

Toona sinensis (香椿 xiāng chūn)

Toona sinensis (or Chinese toon seed) deserves its place on the top of this list. It’s only available during a very short period each year given that its early sprouts(芽,yá), when the color is still reddish, are considered to be the most delicious(美味,měi wèi) and nutritious(营养,yíng yǎng). The young leaves(嫩叶,nèn yè) are so welcomed among Beijingers due to their floral, slight oniony flavor that trees are planted exclusively just for this yearly vegetable treat. Beijing’s long-time love towards toona sinensis is even evident in the hutongs(胡同,hú tòng), where a number of alleyways are named after the plant, such as Changchun Jie and Xiangchun Hutong.

Dishes available now: Toona egg pancake (香椿鸡蛋饼 xiāng chūn jī dàn bǐng) and toona with tofu salad (香椿拌豆腐 xiāng chūn bàn dòu fu).

Bamboo shoots (春笋 chūn sǔn)

Spring also means freshly-erupted culms of the bamboo plant. They’re tender, crisp, and chewy, and go great in various dishes, be it in soups(汤,tāng), braising with pork(猪肉,zhū ròu), or simple stir-fries(炒,chǎo). Bamboo is also an excellent source of fiber(纤维,xiān wéi) – win-win!

Dishes available now: Braised bamboo shoots (油焖春笋 yóu mèn chūn sǔn) and bamboo shoots with pickled cabbage (雪菜春笋 xuě cài chūn sǔn).

Asparagus (芦笋 lú sǔn)

Asparagus is low in calories(低热量), yet packed with nutrition such as potassium(钾) and vitamin A and C. Though not universally enjoyed (especially among kids) due to its somewhat bitter flavor(苦味,kǔ wèi), the stalks(茎,jīng) are crunchy, buttery, and go great with other strong-flavored ingredients.

Dishes available now: Asparagus with shrimp meat (虾仁芦笋 xiā rén lú sǔn) and scaled asparagus (白灼芦笋 bái zhuó lú sǔn).

Pea pods (豌豆荚 wān dòu jiá)

If you’re looking for an easy health boost, add pea pods to your diet. They are high in vitamin A and C, and contain moderate amounts of iron(铁,tiě), which helps the body regulate blood sugar(血糖,xuè táng) levels. They're also super versatile and can be consumed in a number of ways: steamed, stir-fried, and even raw.

Dishes available now: fried pea pods (清炒豌豆荚 qīng chǎo wān dòu jiá) and pea pods salad (豌豆荚沙拉 wān dòu jiá shā lā).

Shepherd's purse (荠菜 jì cài)

Similar sounding to 聚财 jù cái "gather the fortune," jì cài AKA shepherd's purse (capsella bursa-pastoris) is extremely popular in China given that it lies at the crossroads of auspiciousness and high edibility.

Dishes available now: Pork and capsella bursa-pastoris dumplings (荠菜猪肉饺子 jì cài zhū ròu jiǎo zi), capsella bursa-pastoris wontons (荠菜馄饨 jì cài hún tun), and tofu and capsella bursa-pastoris stew (荠菜豆腐羹 jì cài dòu fu gēng).


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