Eat Fresh In February: Asparagus, Beet, Cauliflower & Leek Recipes

Fresh and organic beets from the garden

There are lots of good reasons to eat seasonally: when fruits and vegetables are fresh, their nutrition is at its peak, and it’s more environmentally sustainable, for starters.  Ayurveda encourages eating seasonally too, and if you’re growing your own food, then it just makes sense to eat seasonally.  But it can be difficult to eat the fruits and vegetables that are in season if they’re new to you, or if you’ve eaten them for six weeks in a row.  It’s easy to feel stuck, bored, or lost when it comes to incorporating the season’s peak produce into your actual meal plans.  So let’s take a look at a few of February’s finest, freshest offerings and see how they’re best prepared.

 

Asparagus

Asparagus is a great source of vitamins A and C.  It’s a really excellent source of vitamin K, which helps blood clot, keeps bones strong, and supports heart health.  Asparagus is also a good source of fiber and its antioxidant properties make it cancer-fighting.  It even helps combat belly bloat!  And due to the presence of the amino acid asparagine, it is a natural diuretic that keeps the urinary tract healthy.

 

  • You’re probably familiar with asparagus in soup, like in this Cream of Asparagus Soup recipe.  (Psst! It’s nothing like the stuff in the can.)
  • But did you know you can even juice asparagus?  That’s right!  Add some cucumbers and apples to it so the juice isn’t too earthy, but it has a fresh, celery-like taste.
  • My personal favorite way to eat asparagus is to just saute it with minced garlic and serve it with fresh lemon juice—it only takes about 5 minutes to make this way.
  • Another surprising way to eat asparagus?  Spruce up your sandwich with a few spears.
  • If it’s warm enough where you live, grill that asparagus up and throw on some sea salt.
  • And, like with most veggies, you can toss it in a stir fry.

 

Beets

Beets are known for their bright reddish-pinkish color (which can stain everything, including your lips).  But they’re good for more than a pretty color.  Beets can lower your blood pressure (because of their nitrates) and fight inflammation, too—they’re even known as a detoxifier due to the betaine, an amino acid that helps keep the liver working optimally.  And those same nitrates that help regulate your blood pressure also increase athletic stamina—athletes often drink beet juice before endurance competitions.

  • It might be surprising to add tomatoes to beets—but these two red-hued superfoods make a delicious pair when combined with some lentils for plant-based protein.
  • Cold soup isn’t just for watermelon—if it’s already warming up in your hometown, whip up some vegan beet gazpacho.
  • Move over, kombucha!  There’s a new probiotic drink in town, and it’s called beet kvass.  This recipe takes a couple of weeks because it has to ferment, but the result is a beautifully colored delicious and healthy beverage.
  • Hummus is a classic recipe, but when you add beets to the mix it becomes anything but boring—bright pink with a pop of spice from the ginger!
  • Balsamic vinegar and rosemary are natural matches for beets—throw them on the grill for added flavor, and you’ve got a low effort, high taste side dish.
  • Thick slices of beet can double as vegan “steak” if seasoned and roasted to deliciousness.  Wilt the greens on the side for a no-waste meal!

 

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is undeniably healthy—it boasts a load of antioxidants like carotenoids, tocopherols, and ascorbic acid, which decreases inflammation, among other things.  It can help prevent the onset of or reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including cancer, and can even slow down tumor growth.  Cauliflower’s high vitamin profile—including vitamins K and C as well as omega-3 fatty acids—improves heart health by keeping arteries and blood vessels clear, and supports brain health, too.

  • OK, this has got to be one of the most interesting uses of cauliflower out there: You blend the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces and then you combine it with a few other ingredients to create the crust in this Cauliflower Crust Pizza.  You won’t even know there’s cauliflower in it!
  • Battering and frying cauliflower florets before slathering them in a yummy sauce makes them almost taste like fried chicken.  This recipe calls for a Chinese lemon sauce, but you can also use plain ol’ wing sauce to make mock chicken wings!
  • Mash them and add them to sweet potatoes for a healthier version of the traditional American favorite, mashed potatoes.  If you use non-dairy butter and milk, this makes a great side dish for vegan eaters!
  • Who says creamy soup can’t be vegan?  The cauliflower in this recipe turns into a decadent base for the leeks and onions, making this Creamy Cauliflower Soup dish pop with flavor.
  • Add chopped cauliflower with whatever other seasonal veggies you have on hand and make this breakfast hash recipe that you can eat any time of day.  Add a fun sauce to it, like pesto, for more flavor.

 

Leeks 

A lot of the health benefits of leeks come from sulfur-containing compounds, like allicin.  Allicin is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, and also neutralizes free radicals as it’s digested.  Another component of leeks, kaempferol, protects blood vessels from damage and support cardiovascular health, and leeks are yet another food that helps us fight cancer.  You get many of the same health benefits and vitamins and minerals from leeks that you get from onions and garlic, but they have a milder taste, which makes them more appealing to some people and easier to add to certain dishes without the risk of overpowering them.

  • It’s not unusual to see leeks in soup—but in this Creamy Cauliflower Soup, they play a supporting role instead of the lead.
  • Leek quiche is another classic—but the umami flavor from the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes lend a nice complexity in this leek quiche recipe.
  • You can use leeks almost anywhere you use onions—get creative!  Toss them on a pizza, like this one that include kohlrabi, too.
  • Added to a pasta dish (with bacon or mushrooms for even more flavor), leeks give a buttery richness that makes the meal feel more complete.
  • Noodles aren’t the only pasta that leeks go with—layer them into a healthy lasagna dish with kale and ricotta.

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