No matter how much it feels like this winter will never, ever end, March 20 marked the official first day of spring. (We know, we can't believe it either.)
Across the country, most of us are still just dreaming of warmer temps, but just seeing the word "spring" on the pages of our calendars is enough to start out mouths watering for our favorite seasonal produce. Even when certain fruits or veggies are available year-round, there's no denying fresher is better.
So we asked some of our favorite nutrition experts to share with us which piece of spring produce (it's SO hard to pick just one!) they're most excited to dig their teeth into. Check out their responses -- as well as their favorite ways to prepare their picks -- below. Then, tell us in the comments which spring superfoods you're most looking forward to enjoying.
"Like daffodils, the reemergence of asparagus at the local farmer's market announces to me that spring is on its way.
I like to prepare it very simply: I chop off or break off the woody parts of the stems, steam for a brief time until vibrantly deep green in appearance (being careful not to overcook, or they become limp and mushy), and then I place them on a platter and drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil or macadamia nut oil, pink himalayan or celtic sea salt and perhaps a sprinkle of a few pine nuts or hemp seeds."
--Rochelle Sirota, MS, RD, CDN
Key nutrition facts: Half a cup contains 20 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams protein of protein and is a very good source of vitamins A, C, E, K and potassium.
"I love using arugula tossed with chopped tomatoes and a fresh lemon-olive oil dressing. I also enjoy topping my homemade vegetarian pizza with arugula and artichoke hearts."
--Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
"While I can usually find artichokes year round (I live in Napa), there's something special about the sweet and tender baby artichokes that show up in the spring. They're absolutely scrumptious in their simplicity -- just steam them!"
--Cheryl Forberg, RD, chef and nutritionist for NBC's "The Biggest Loser", James Beard award-winning chef, NYT bestselling author
Key nutrition facts: One medium artichoke contains 64 calories, 10 grams of fiber and three grams of protein. Artichoke is also a very good source of vitamins C and K and folate.
"Although I'm always excited about fresh seasonal produce, I think this year, I'm most looking forward to fennel! I love its crisp texture and unique licorice flavor -- it smells like spring! Plus, you can use the whole thing: The bulb is perfect sliced into a salad (I usually toss it with shaved asparagus, parmesan and fresh lemon juice) or roasted in the oven with balsamic vinegar and a touch of olive oil. And the green feathery fronds make a beautiful garnish, just like other green herbs.
--Joy Bauer, MS, RD, nutrition and health expert for NBC's "Today Show" and New York Times bestselling author
Key nutrition facts: Just an ounce of the bulb in your salads adds a gram of fiber for only nine calories. Fennel bulb is also a very good source of vitamin C, folate and potassium.
"I love them pureed and drizzled over plain 2 percent Greek yogurt, oatmeal or used as a healthy pancake topper. I also love strawberries dipped in melted dark chocolate -- fondue fabulous!"
--Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, LDN
Key nutrition facts: One serving contains 47 calories and three grams of fiber and seven grams of sugar. Strawberries are also a very good source of a very good source of vitamin C and manganese.