- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The pickings at your local farmers market might remain a bit slim for another few weeks, but fresh produce has finally begun to trickle in. Beyond being the first sign of good things to come, these spring vegetables can be cherished in their own right for the bright flavors they bring to our winter-weary tables.

Asparagus is definitely the king of spring produce. Pencil-thin or thick as cigars, take the spears any way you can find them. Look for spears that are firm, not rubbery, with tightly closed tips.

Try asparagus steamed and sprinkled with simple lemon juice, or drizzled with olive oil and roasted under the broiler, as in the recipe below. Either way, be careful of overcooking it, since one of the best things about asparagus is its tender bite.

Keep your eye out for ramps, another spring favorite. These are in the onion family and taste like a cross between garlic and shallots. Both the white bulb and the leafy greens are edible.

Ramps have a blink-and-you-miss-it season, so buy then while you can. Thinly sliced, they make a great addition to vegetable stir-fries, frittatas and salads. They also pair well with the sweet, earthy flavor of baby potatoes, which are likewise starting to appear at markets.

We can’t talk about spring produce without giving a nod to rhubarb. The season for rhubarb graciously overlaps with the season for strawberries, allowing us to combine them in pies, cobblers and jams. These are delicious, but also be sure to appreciate rhubarb’s merits on its own. The sweet-tart flavor is a refreshing way to end a meal and celebrate the brief spring season while it lasts.

Spring green salad of roasted asparagus, prosciutto, and fried egg

Makes 4 servings.

1/2 pound asparagus

1/4 pound prosciutto, sliced into ribbons

10 ounces spring greens

Juice from half a lemon

Salt

Pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

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