Top ingredients for Spring can be found at Whole Foods Market

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Spring has sprung! And with it comes a bounty of new flavors from the garden and beyond.

Whole Foods Market experts outlined the top picks of the season – in produce, seafood, cheese, meat, wine and even snacks. See below for selecting and storing the best of spring’s bounty.

Juiciest Produce Picks – from asparagus to Vidalias, courtesy of produce guru, Chris Romano, senior global produce and floral coordinator, Whole Foods Market.

  • Asparagus: Whether boiled, sautéed, roasted or grilled, asparagus is a go-to from February to June and at its peak in April. Look for bright green spears with no signs of shriveling; for a milder, nuttier taste, try white asparagus. It’s best to purchase just before using, to store it, keep the rubber band around the bunch and place the spears upright in a container with stems wading an about an inch of water. Friendly reminder to trim the woody ends before cooking!
  • Artichokes: At their peak from March through May, artichokes are at their best when they are firm and heavy with a dark green color and closed leaves (though heirloom artichokes will naturally have slightly more open leaves). Give it a squeeze and if it squeaks, it’s fresh. The heavier it is, the fresher it is! Store them in a wash or water, or rinse and place in a plastic bag in the fridge. Quick tip: Steaming artichokes is great for appetizers and entrees, and they pair wonderfully with a number of sauces too!
  • Strawberries – Peak season for America’s favorite berry is April. It’s important to look for bright red, firm berries that have vibrant green caps and are free of mushy spots. Don’t rinse until just before enjoying them to avoid watering down their flavor and leave the caps attached until eating for max freshness.
  • Spinach: When buying, look for leaves that are crisp and dark green. Spinach leaves are delicate, so handle with care to prevent bruising, which can hasten spoilage. It’s important to wash thoroughly to remove any dirt or discolored, damaged leaves. Keep fresh spinach in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer to protect from dehydration. For best results, wrap the leaves in a slightly damp paper towel and seal in a plastic bag before refrigerating.
  • Young salad greens/spring mix: With the colorful produce spring brings, one of the best ways to enjoy it is in a fresh salad. After all, they call it “Spring Mix” for a reason. This medley of baby lettuces and tender greens was traditionally the first harvest of the spring greens crops, hence the name. For best storage, handle with care to avoid bruising, which can shorten product life and refrigerate like spinach in the crisper drawer.
  • Mangoes: Lucky for us, mangos have two seasons and one of them happens to be spring! Because mangoes can be found in varying shades of greens, yellows, reds and oranges, color is not always the best indicator of ripeness. Instead, squeeze the mango gently. Ripe mangoes will have a slight give and will become softer as they ripen.  To speed up the ripening process, place unripe mangoes at room temperature or in a paper bag.
  • Sweet Onions: From Texas Sweets to Vidalias, sweet onions are at their primefrom April to late June. The mild flavor makes them a favorite for many and a versatile ingredient for a variety of recipes. When purchasing, look for firm onions that are free of cuts and blemishes. They can last for several weeks without compromising their flavor. To maximize freshness, store them in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place. Fun fact: Sweet onions don’t actually have any more sugar than other onions; they just taste like it because they have less sulfur, and therefore, less pungency than other onions, which allows the taste of the onion’s natural sugars to come through.
  • Tulips: As the old saying goes, April showers bring May flowers, but they also bring beautiful tulips in April. These beautiful perennials are a great local, domestic buy to brighten any home.
  • A quick note on what else to look for: Regardless of the season, opting for Responsibly Grown produce and flowers is a great way to ensure you’re supporting farmers that are taking major steps to protect the environment and human health. Responsibly Grown also prohibits some of the most hazardous neurotoxins still allowed in agriculture and rewards growers for following best practices in key areas like pest management, recycling, water conservation, farmworker welfare, pollinator protection and more.

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I love the produce at Whole Foods Market (and I am slightly partial to the Whole Foods Market in Torrance) and so I quickly stocked up on Avocados, Apples,Asparagus, Strawberries and Mangoes! I can always find the freshest fruit at Whole Foods Market! 

Best Catches of the Season: As the days get warmer and just a bit longer, seafood brings the perfect fresh, light flavor and healthy proteins you need. Whole Foods Market’s Global Seafood Buyer David Pilat has this season’s best catch.

  • Paiche: As the spring season begins, wild-caught seafood can be a bit scarce as most global waters are still a little cold. But don’t just opt for any old farmed seafood choice. Look for picks that meet Whole Foods Market’s Responsibly Farmed standards, which means that seafood choice was raised without antibiotics, pesticides, added growth hormones or added preservatives. Paiche is a South American white fish and has a mild, buttery flavor and moist, firm fillets. It does best seared or broiled to create a crispy crust. Try Paiche in place of Chilean sea bass for a similar flavor and texture.
  • Halibut: March kicks off wild halibut season, making spring the perfect time to find it fresh and at its peak. Halibut, a firm-textured white fish with relatively few bones and little oil is known for its delicate, succulent texture. Because of its mild, almost sweet flavor and ability to maintain its shape, halibut takes well to virtually any cooking method or sauce. Best of all, Whole Foods Market only offers sustainably sourced halibut to ensure this and other wild-caught seafood is available for future generations. We offer halibut that’s certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, or rated Green or Yellow by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  • Wild-Caught Scallops: April on is off prime scallop season. Their light, buttery flavor pairs perfectly with other seasonal favorites like fresh herbs and greens. That said, it’s important to know your source — scallops are a species that can often be treated with things like carbon dioxide to give the illusion of freshness when that may not be the case; Whole Foods Market’s Eastern Atlantic sea scallops are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
  • MSC Wild Salmon (Copper River from Alaska): May is the start of wild salmon season and is essentially the official start to summer and grilling season for seafood lovers! Sockeye salmon from the Copper River is the first wild Alaska salmon available, and harvests are expected to be great in 2016! The robust flavor of sockeye stands up to seasonings and marinades, but works just as well when grilled simply with lemon, butter, salt and pepper.

Top Frommage: Holy cow, goat, sheep and buffalo. Yes, at Whole Foods Market we’re obsessed with all things cheese. Here are a few of this season’s best from Whole Foods Market’s resident cheese whiz Cathy Strange.

  • A few quick notes about Cheese: Because Whole Foods Market always has shoppers’ best interests in mind, many of the cheeses we sell are organic and never contain artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Cheese is best stored in the refrigerator and wrapped in waxed paper. Remember: Cheese is a “living” thing! When stored properly, the cheese will be able to breathe and further develop without drying out.
  • Goat Cheese: Fresh goat cheese is at its best in the spring after the kidding season is over and the goats are released back into newly thawed pastures, where they get to eat the first, nutrient rich grasses of the year. A great goat cheese to try is Cypress Grove Psyche Dillic. It’s great on a bagel with smoked salmon, in warm or cold pasta dishes and on flatbreads with fresh sautéed mushrooms. Another great spring favorite is Drunken Goat from Murcia Spain, an aged goat cheese soaked in wine from the region. Nutty cheese flavor with fruity aromatics and flavor from the wine make it a perfect mat to spring floral flavors and trends.
  • Fresh spring flavors: Spring’s also a great time to enjoy cheese with fresh floral notes or infusions of fresh herbs. Herbes des Provence, an aged product from Sartori in Wisconsin made exclusively for Whole Foods Market is a great choice. It’s rich, complex flavor with overtones of rosemary and lavender.

Sassy Seasonal Sips: The air is fresh; the sun is out, and it’s time to sit out with a glass of something in hand. Whole Foods Market’s in-house Master Sommelier and Global Beverage Buyer, Devin Brogle has the wine hit list that will keep you refreshed and enjoying this season.

  • Rosé: This light-bodied, pink-hued vino was practically invented for Spring; served chilled, it’s the perfect refresher on warmer days. While it’s long been a crowd-pleaser, rosé is having a major moment right now. Recommended bottles:
    • Globerati Rosé, Italy: Crisp, light, and delicate, look for aromas of red fruit and wild strawberries when purchasing a rosé. It’s refreshing finish makes a perfect counterpart to creamy pastas with pancetta, rich salads and lightly aged soft cheeses.
    • Terra Corsa Vin de Corse, France: Exclusive to Whole Foods Market, classic pink hues and complex aromas of red currant, peach and orange are found in this gem from the island of Corsica. Floral flavors mix with notes of Mediterranean herbs and citrus along with a hint of fresh pomegranate in the mouthwatering finish.
    • Santa Julia Innovación Rosé, Argentina: A great value, this rosé has intense cherry-pink color hints at the bold aromas of fresh strawberries and blackberries in the glass. Complete with a nice fruitiness, the light, elegant finish works well with grilled fish, pizzas and charcuterie.
    • Presto Prosecco Cans: New from Whole Foods Market, Presto Sparkling Cuvée offers a convenient, lightweight and recyclable option for spring occasions. Whole Foods Market now offers the popular Presto Prosecco in a 4-pack for just $12.99 – a great value!

Prime Meat Must-Haves: Seasonality doesn’t just apply to produce–after all, they don’t call it a “spring chicken” for nothing! Whole Foods Market’s Global Meat Buyer and master butcher, Theo Weening is an advocate for all things meat and explains the season’s top cuts.

  • Lamb: Lamb is a wonderfully flavorful, light and lean meat for the Spring. Perfect for burgers, oven roasting or grilling — lamb is versatile and can be prepared quickly for a meal on the fly, or simmered for hours in a rich and hearty stew. Raised with no antibiotics ever, no added growth hormones or animal byproducts in feed and raised on pasture or range, there are a number of cuts to choose from that not only taste great, but are a great value as well. And this goes for all of the meat in Whole Foods Market’s fresh meat cases!
    • Leg of Lamb: Tender and iconic, leg of lamb can be purchased in several iterations. A whole leg (usually about 6 pounds) should feed at least 8 people!
    • Rack of Lamb: The lamb rib rack is an impressive, 7-8 tined cut that grills beautifully but can also be crusted with herbs and roasted.
    • Lamb Chops: Tender rib chops are cut from the rack and the long rib bone provides a delicate effect on the plate.
    • Lamb Shank: Lamb shanks are stars of the braising world; use a long, slow cook time to develop a velvety texture. Each shank will serve one person generously.
    • Kabobs: Springtime equals grill time, and there’s no quicker or easier way to grill up a weeknight meal or feed a crowd than with kabobs. While you may be able to find kabobs at the butcher shop year round, you’ll start noticing a lot more options heading into Memorial Day — especially when seasonal produce items like bell peppers, sweet onions and tomatoes are in their prime. Whole Foods Market butchers offer grill-ready plain and pre-seasons chicken, beef and pork options right at the meat counter, or you can DIY at home. Just chop veggies and pre-marinated meats into similar-sized cubes to ensure even cooking and let guests build their own kabobs (with pre-soaked wooden skewers) to suit their tastes. Grill over direct heat and serve!
    • Made-in-house sausages:  Few spring selections can top the versatility and simplicity of a perfectly grilled sausage. And with all of the seasonings and varieties to choose from, like pork, beef, chicken, turkey or even bison or lamb, you can really satisfy a range of taste buds on a modest budget. At Whole Foods Market, our seasoned sausage meisters make our sausage in-house so you get the freshest options possible, and you can even call ahead to custom order.
    • One more thing to look for: For the best quality, opt for meat that is free of antibiotics or added hormones – those are basic standards for all of the fresh meat we sell at Whole Foods Market. All of our fresh chicken, beef, pork and turkey comes from farms that have been certified to Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating System, which means suppliers must meet – at minimum — 100 species-specific criteria designed to protect animals’ safety and wellbeing.

Hot Off the Shelf: With all this talk about fresh seasonal products for spring, we couldn’t leave out a few new, limited edition snacks and returning favorites inspired by seasonal flavors.

  • A Saucy Spring: With no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, hydrogenated fats or preservatives, these sauces add a light and delicious kick to Spring dishes.
    • Whole Foods Market Caribbean Jerk Sauce & Marinade
    • 365 Everyday Value Grilled Pineapple & Moonshine Barbecue Sauce Limited Edition
  • Sweet & Salty Snacks:Perfect for Spring outings, and returning favorites to ring in the season.
    • 365 Everyday Value Dill Pickle Potato Chips
    • 365 Everyday Value Sriracha Sunflower Kernels (NEW)
  • Sips to Savor: Refreshing beverages with a touch of fruit-forward sweetness!
    • 365 Everyday Value Organic Matcha Lemonade Limited Edition (NEW)
    • 365 Everyday Value Organic Watermelon Lemonade

Look for all of the above at your local Whole Foods Market!

Self Disclosure: I received an egift card to shop for my Spring favorites. No other compensation was received to post.

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