Have you ever watched tender young leaves in the wind? They're so delicate the slightest breeze sets them trembling, making their delicacy all the more apparent. Even the shade of green they offer seems tentative, uncertain.
On your plate, spring greens are equally tender. No, they don't have huge adorable eyes like those of kittens, puppies and most baby animals to make them look vulnerable and appealing. Still, there's something about their leafy delicacy that triggers the protective, mothering side of me. That is, before I gobble them down!
Tender little sorrel leaves tangy as lemon-lime juice; chartreuse young lettuce leaves as delicate as gossamer; baby beet micro-greens that really are deep purple and as sultry as beets themselves. They fill heart and mouth with delight — welcome relief from the root veggies of winter we've been rooted in for months.
Farmers from Pemberton to Abbotsford have been teaching me for years about the joys of local spring greens, especially those far from the beaten path of supermarket shelves.
Yes, Virginia, there is life beyond lettuce, cabbage and parsley. Besides, even if you check the "organics" sections of your favourite grocery store, all you'll find now are greens shipped 1,001 miles from California or Mexico.
A local exception — one you can enjoy year-round — are the very B.C. Eatmore organic sprouts grown in Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. You can find them in nearly every grocery store and remember this — you're supporting 30+ jobs each time you buy a container.
But branch out! In this case, life abounds beyond alfalfa sprouts (never my favourites). Try the garlic sprouts for a lovely hint of garlic or the broccoli sprouts — a bit peppery and, surprisingly, not even remotely like broccoli.
Sprouts got a bad rap a few years back with e. coli scares, but Eatmore does a bang-up job of growing theirs carefully, plus they're seed savers and anti-GMOs.
Regardless, all sprouts — and all greens, for that matter — need to be rinsed well before use. The easiest way for sprouts is to dump them in a sieve and rinse them under running water. Give it a few taps on the side of the sink to get more water out, then let them drain in the sink bottom while you prep your sandwich or salad. Your sprouts will be ready when you are.
As for other tender-leaf darlings, try branching out with these:
Arugula: Like so many other things, this got a new lease on life in Canada when the American name, "arugula", overtook the original name of "garden rocket" or just plain "rocket" used in Commonwealth countries for ages. I say go British, not American, on this one since rocket is native to the Mediterranean. I still like to call it "rocket" mainly because its flavour sends me, maybe not quite to the moon, but close. Arugula is a member of the mustard / cabbage / radish family and one bite of fresh, tender arugula will tell you why. Peppery and nutty at the same time, some people find it addicting. But that might be due to its high potassium content, a property most greens share. One of the more common elements in our bodies, potassium is vital for keeping our brains and nervous systems healthy.