Tastes of Spring

Do seasons have flavors? For some of us, they do. A scent, a kitchen memory or a photo in the latest edition of Saveur causes action between the anatomic connections of the olfactory bulb and the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus known as the the satiety center. In other words, they cause us to remember a flavor associated with an experience.

Yet, omnivores that we are with every grocery store convenience, this idea is becoming diminished. At this point, my children look at me oddly when I ask, “what does spring taste like?” How would you describe the flavor of each season? Are there foods in your annual palate that restrict themselves to a ripe selection within a window of days? Are these tastes driven from childhood memories or something that you’ve grown to appreciate as an adult?

I find most of my food-season connections are built around summer. That’s understandable. School was out. Vacations and swimming were in and life took on a picnic attitude. I won’t reveal those flavors to you until we get there. Today, we’ll focus on spring.

To me, spring tastes of fennel and leeks, both heavy, white bulbous treats pulled from the earth. Both cast with a light green water color wash and subtle flavors. It’s as if they recognize that they’re coming on tales of winter yet a prelude to the dog days of heat ahead. Nothing too strong. Nothing too loud. Just a gentle fragrant reminder that the freesia are blooming.

Fennel is not quite celery and not quite apple – a bit anise. It pairs with nearly anything and is never overbearing. It’s a good source of vitamin C and potassium and due to it’s water content and fiber has a good “fullness factor”. I love it roasted with olive oil, in a stir fry or baked on it’s own with parmesan.

Leeks are mild tasting vegetables in the lily family that are crazy high in vitamin K and also have ample A. They are a fantastic addition to soups, pastas, eggs and baked alone. They also dehydrate really well so that one need not only taste them in the springtime. The Welsh wear them in their hats on March 1 to commemorate a battle fought against Saxon invaders in a field of leeks.

The possibilities presented by these two together are really only limited by the pantry. Try them cooked in risotto or in a gratin. Add them to other vegetables in a fresh chopped salad. Brush them with olive oil and put them on the grill as your main meal or a side dish. I trust you’ll find them synonymous with this time of year when new life is springing from the earth. What does spring taste like where you live?

Fennel Blossom Soup
recipe from Desert Roots Farm

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sliced leeks (white parts only)
  • 2 potatoes diced
  • 4 cups fennel bulb diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3.5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbs fresh fennel flowers
  • salt and ground pepper to taste
  • fruity olive oil to garnish

Directions:
Heat butter in a heavy soup pot. Add leeks and cook over medium-low heat until translucent. Add potatoes and fennel and deglaze with wine. Add stock, bring to a simmer and cover for 30 minutes. Add fennel flower and then puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle individual bowls with olive oil before serving.

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69 Comments

  1. So very excited to have found this! Will try this for sure!
    Thanks!
    anne

    Reply
  2. I saw the photos in the wordpress reader and was immediately excited that you were about to post a great recipe I was introduced to a few years ago– carmelized leeks with fennel over pasta! Delicious, for anyone else wondering how to use the combination. Just don’t skip on the leeks, and add a splash of cream.

    If I ever succesfully grow fennel, I’ll have to come try the recipe.

    Spring tastes like snow peas, chives, turnip greens, and violet leaves.

    Reply
    • Sorry to disappoint! I’ll bet that you can carmelize the leeks in a slow cooker – the way I do with onions. It’s fabulous and you’re never tempted to skimp on carmelization time!

      Reply
      • I might have to borrow one to try that. Good idea… it is so tempting to just take them off the heat a little early.

        Reply
  3. Love fennel slaw too… it’s funny how much I’ve changed to appreciate the seasons. I no longer pay any attention at all to most out of season trucked in produce. The only real temptation I feel is for avocado & citrus fruits.

    Asparagus is a pretty exciting spring treat as is rhubarb and ramps. Dairy is especially good in spring if the cows are on grass and you aren’t buying from big processors who make everything uniform and consistent.

    I’d much rather mark time by celebrating food markers than Hallmark holiday rituals…

    Reply
  4. I love everything about this! Tammy …it could have been a poem, to me. 🙂 The way you talk about the flavor of spring shows your passion and your recipes make me think you should be on the Food Network. ..a Star! You will be way disappointed with me (but you already know I need help! ha!) , but what comes to mind for a spring flavor is morel mushrooms. 🙂
    Happy Mother’s Day, sweet lady!

    Reply
  5. Here we are still a long time from enjoying anything from the garden, with one exception. I’m really enjoying the first rhubarb pie of the season!

    Reply
    • Ahhh. Now that is something that I think of as summer but perhaps I am confused.

      Reply
  6. i like fennel a lot, the soup sounds really nice

    Reply
  7. Fennel and Leeks. Mmmm. I haven’t tried these. I’m going to check the local grocery. Spring is almost coming to an end and I don’t want to miss any Springtime events from food to amazing places to visit. Thanks for sharing all these delicious greens. You showed us an exciting part of the vegetable world. Happy Mother’s Day to you. Walking Papers has a cool treat for mother’s day. Hope you check it
    out.
    http://walkingpapers.wordpress.com

    Reply
  8. Nice. I try to keep eating better and ya help…phew

    Reply
  9. What do the seasons taste of – a wonderful question that has got me thinking!
    I love the name of the soup, and it sounds very good, I love fennel and I don’t think I’ve ever had fennel soup before. Soon to be remidied!

    Reply
  10. Yes, seasons have flavor! They also have a special scent of the air. For me, spring tastes like asparagus (I love the green one the most), fresh chives, and strawberries. Fennel and leek are, funnily, rather winter flavors for me.

    Reply
    • I knew that someone would say strawberries. I’m not a successful grower but I see photos all over the blog world of people picking them right now. Looks like such fun.

      Reply
  11. Fun to think about, Tammy-
    spring tastes: new green, herbal, grassy, fresh, “morning dewy”–chives, young lettuces, dillweed, asparagus

    (summer tastes red!)

    thanks again for dinner—it was great to meet you, and have a chance to visit in person. Nancy

    Reply
    • I predicted that you would say dill! I love it as a sauce for salmon and also love that you use yoghurt to make potato salad. That one, I might actually be able to eat. I had a wonderful time meeting you too and am so happy to include you in the ranks of friends. Be well.

      Reply
  12. Lisa H

     /  May 13, 2012

    For me, spring tastes like flowers. The kids and I love to walk into the garden to snack on broccoli raab flowers. Arugula flowers are beautiful in salads, as are marigold petals. Johnnie Jump-ups are fun to freeze inside ice cubes and served in a clear pitcher of water. Zucchini blossoms are divine sautéed in butter or sunflower oil.
    Tammy, this post is just fabulous! Leeks and fennel have become my favorite vegetables, so I will definitely try this recipe. Adding the fennel flowers is a great touch!

    Reply
    • That’s beautiful Lisa. I remember you making those cool ice cubes. And I love the zucchini blossoms. Hmmm. I think I need some of those this week.

      Reply
  13. Love this, I’m not a fan of soup, but will have to try this – seems interesting.

    To me, Spring tastes like fresh salads, grilled yumminess and my newest favorites, strawberry soup and avocado deviled eggs. 🙂

    The last two can be found right here if you’re interested:
    http://estrella05azul.wordpress.com/category/recipe-of-the-month/

    Reply
    • Love the look of those eggs. I guess springtime is egg time since Easter occurs in our spring here.

      Reply
  14. Oh YUM! I have been wanting to try fennel but was really never sure of a good recipe, although there are many out there.

    Thank you so much! I will enjoy.

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    Reply
  15. Spring ~ Asparagus, Parsnips (over-wintered in the soil), Maple Syrup
    Summer ~ Corn on the Cob, new potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, peppers
    Fall ~ Apples, fresh pressed Cider
    Winter ~ Christmas Cookies

    Reply
    • Hmmm. Maple syrup is not one of my heritage foods and not one I’d think of. Otherwise, we’re very aligned.

      Reply
  16. I also love the veggies of spring. Like you, I absolutely love leeks & fennel. I love to gril lit, make soups out of it, braise it with Pastis & oranges & your soup sings to me! What a lovely soup indeed! 🙂

    Reply
  17. I like your blog, the way it makes us think “What does spring taste like?” I think spring tastes like morel mushrooms, wild leeks, violets, asparagus, baby dandelion greens. It cleanses us from the long winter.

    Reply
  18. Spring is definitely rhubarb, asparagus, and morel mushrooms (if I can find any). I definitely enjoyed fennel in the early spring/late summer over in Italy but I have yet to actually try cooking it here back in the states. I will definitely have to make an effort.

    The Boy has green garlic right now, and I have been devouring that this spring so it will definitely be going on the Spring List for sure. Great post!

    Reply
    • Yes, indeed. If I was to add a third, it would be green garlic. I just love it and we are at the end of the line already.

      Reply
  19. Fennel is the one thing that I haven’t learned to like through my CSA. Fortunately, the guinea pigs think it is excellent! For me, asparagus has the strongest spring connotation.

    Reply
    • I’m surprised about your fennel admission but we’re all entitled, right? I think you have a lucky guinea pig.

      Reply
  20. I love this, the recipe is great but the notion of seasons having a flavor. Oh yes they do!!! My newest flavors are wild leeks and fiddlehead ferns (early spring). We get strawberries from other places, but the minute the local ones come into the grocery store, there is a heady smell, distinctive, ask any foody in town and they will understand, and then the flavor 100 times better than those shipped from afar. (June). We have so many locally grown goods that each month of spring summer and fall brings with it the flavors. (apple in September, cider in October) and of course cranberries and cinnamon for November and December.

    Reply
    • Fiddleheads!! Great add. We don’t get them here but when we are in the Pacific Northwest, we do.

      Reply
  21. That sounds like spring! We eat seasonally so I get what you mean about certain scents and flavours for each season. Right now it is autumn (fall) for us and that is all the earthy vegetables, and warming soups 🙂

    Reply
  22. That sounds so delicious! We try to eat seasonally, and right now, we’re all about the asparagus!

    Reply
  23. I love this post as it really resonated with me. I remember as a child waiting for different things to come into season, June was for strawberries, July had raspberries and the first fresh tomatoes, August had corn on the cob. I still tend to eat this way, summer is all about grilled foods and fresh vegetables, Fall is about nice warm soups and fall vegetables likes squash and cabbage, winter has casseroles and spring in quebec is looking foward to the first fresh salads. I love how traditions also get built around seasonal eating you can look forward to different meals as the year goes by instead of made-up holidays

    Reply
    • Yes, that’s what Jackie said too. What a great idea to build a calendar around that instead of holidays!

      Reply
  24. thanks for the “like”! great post!

    Reply
  25. What is it about scents and food and memories? It’s also one of the most joyful expressions available to us, I think – this ability to reminisce with the sense of smell. For me, the Spring scents are less food-oriented and more with flowers. Lilacs and honeysuckle! I do love your descriptions here of the fennel and leeks.

    Reply
    • Ahh Lilacs! Yes, growing up that was a definite sign of warn weather. I mostly think of peonies – big pink and white globes of flowers that were always blooming on Memorial day when we visited the cemetaries.

      Reply
  26. Have you tried Fennel Pollen yet? I bought some a while ago and still haven’t got around to using it. It has an incredibly wonderful aroma though… now I just have to decide how I am going to use it.

    Reply
  27. Thanks for stopping by veggievinyasa and for giving me the tip about Bragg’s. Your recipe here looks so simple and yummy. Silly question, but are fennel flowers the wispy green parts at the top?

    Reply
  28. Thanks for visiting my blog Tammy! I’m always excited to get a comment. Your blog is beautiful 🙂

    Reply
  29. Veggies n' Dogs

     /  May 17, 2012

    I just started cooking with leeks. I have made them as stir-fry several times. They come out very tasty, but still a little bit chewy/tough. Any recommendations?

    Reply
  30. One of the nice things about living in the South is the nearly year-round vegetable gardening and access to good, fresh food. Spring here tastes and smells a lot like Summer in other parts of the country.

    Right now it’s fresh herbs, greens, peas and wild onions.

    Reply
  31. I adore leeks but know less about fennel: I grew red fennel in my garden and it grew so high it towered over everything else! Must try actually eating it, rather than standing back to admire it…

    Reply
  32. Thank you for this recipe, Tammy, fennel is one of my favourites, either cooked or raw and sliced in a salad.
    For me Spring tastes like asparagus. A delicious vegetable I can never get enough of. Fortunately I have generous friends who bring me bunches of them from their own garden. Spring also tastes like “green onions”, so tasty in salads. Dill is the herb I love as Spring comes. And rhubarb of course.
    Delicious post for all you and your readers brought along.

    Reply

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