Spring is in the air, and that means it’s time to get out your grill and get cooking! I’ll admit, I’ve been missing in action the last 6 months or so. Not that I haven’t been cooking, I just underestimated how important a covered area was when grilling or barbequing in the Pacific Northwest winter! Now that we are fully out of winter, it’s time to focus on some delicious Northwest Spring Vegetables!
As we have explored with other vegetable dishes, great barbeque doesn’t just have to be meat! Grilling can be a great way to impart the same charred and smokey flavor on to seasonal vegetables. Grilled vegetables are so versatile, they can be used as a delicious side dish or even the main course.
Much like meat, different cooking techniques can drastically change the final product. For example, it wasn’t until I ate roasted Brussel sprouts that I realized how delicious they were. It helped that they were tossed with bacon, but it showed me that generic steamed vegetables are convenient, but not always the best finished product.
Finding Local Produce
One of the great things about vegetables is they can be sourced from a farmers market, the grocery store, or your own back yard. When the goal is to find local produce, farmers markets might offer the best variety. You can also find great local produce at your local grocery store. When browsing, the display area or sticker on the product itself should indicate where it was grown.
Of course, it doesn’t get any more local than your own garden! Starting vegetables from seed, or getting starts from a local nursery can result in a delicious and cost effective way to add vegetables to your kitchen! Farm to table is easier if you have a green thumb!
Spring Vegetables from the Pacific Northwest
Knowing your market and climate is important. Spring vegetables native to the Pacific Northwest are vastly different than what is found in the south. In the Pacific Northwest, spring can be defined by drastic changes in weather patterns. That means you might wake up to a chilly, foggy morning, only to have a warm blue sky around noon, and then end the day with a torrential rain storm. Plants need to be able to stand up to the changing weather.
Here are some great spring vegetables to be on the lookout for.
- Spring onion: as the name implies, these are young onions that are harvested in the spring. They resemble a green onion, however, have a white bulb at the bottom. You can use the white bulb at the bottom similar to any other onion, while the top greens can also be used.
- Asparagus: these green spear-like vegetables are well known to the Pacific Northwest. They can be found starting around April and are perfect for grilling. Just look out for that asparagusic acid!
- New potatoes: the younger and smaller siblings to the potatoes you might be used to seeing in the grocery store. Potatoes are great at picking up both smoke and char flavor. Since new potatoes are younger than the fall varieties, their skins are thinner, and therefore much more tender.
- Greens: don’t sleep on the grillability of fresh greens. Varieties like chard, kale, mustard greens, and other leafy lettuce varieties taste great when thrown on a hot grill for a quick char!
Prepping your Northwest Spring Vegetables
Whatever product you choose, preparation is key to successful grilling. That doesn’t just mean proper preparation of the grill. You need to prepare the ingredients as well. Here are some tips to keep in mind when preparing to grill your vegetables.
- Cleaning: we all know where vegetables come from. The ground! In the case of products like potatoes and onions, they are grown underground surrounded by dirt. Proper cleaning of your produce is important in elevating the final product. You don’t want to take a bite of a potato and taste dirt.
- Edible versus inedible: For certain produce items, there are edible parts and inedible parts. For example, rhubarb leaves are toxic to humans, while the stems are edible and give off a tart flavor.
- Trimming: in contrast to rhubarb, certain kale leaves are much more tender and desirable to eat as compared to the stalk it grows on. Asparagus spears are much more tender the closer to the tip, and tougher and “woody” as you get closer to the base. Trimming your produce to highlight the desirable part results in a much more delicious dish.
- Cooking: most vegetables are versatile enough to eat raw or with a variety of cooking techniques. That means it’s really hard to screw up. That being said, have you ever eaten a raw or undercooked potato? Or mushy over cooked zucchini? Know the product your cooking and what doneness the finished product should have.
Cooking Techniques for Spring Vegetables
There are a few considerations you need to make when grilling or barbequing vegetables. The temperature, time, and housing of the vegetables should be thought about ahead of time. Here are a few different techniques that can be used:
- Direct heat: this method results in the highest heat being applied to the food. You place whatever you are grilling right over the heat source. Depending on the size and density of the produce being grilled, you can get a fully cooked finished product very quickly. This technique is perfect for quickly grilled spring onions or adding some char to leafy greens.
- Indirect heat: just the opposite of direct, this method puts your grilling item on the opposite side of the grill as the heat source. This might be used on a product like potatoes, to allow them to fully cook through without giving the outside too much char. It can also be a great way to braise tougher greens in a cast iron skillet to allow them to tenderize.
- Grill basket: using a grill basket such as this one allows you to grill smaller cuts of vegetables without the risk of losing too much through the grates. Is there anything worse than perfectly cooking something only to have it fall through the grates, only to be lost forever?
- Skewers: using skewers such as these are a fun and simple way to cook vegetables on the grill. Kabobs don’t just need to be meat based, and are a great way to cook vegetables like zucchini, onions, peppers, mushrooms, or tomatoes. I prefer metal skewers over wood or bamboo because they are reusable and don’t require pre-soaking.
That’s a Wrap!
Hopefully this short guide to Northwest Spring Vegetables has you inspired to bust out the grill and fire it up! Grilling vegetables can be a great way to eat healthy while cooking outside. It can also be a tasty way to add a new flavor to your dinner table using easy to find products.
If you are looking for some recipes to inspire you, take a look at some of our vegetable based recipes! If you have any questions or suggestions don’t hesitate to comment below!
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