Eat Seasonally: Spring

Hello spring! This marks the beginning of peak fruit season (which runs spring through summer) here in Central California. Leafy green vegetables make an appearance, as well as my personal favorite — the almighty artichoke. Check out this quick guide to spring produce, complete with recipes to get you started.

spring flowers

HOW TO EAT SEASONALLY

While most produce is available at grocery stores year-round, that doesn’t mean it’s best to buy it at any time. Produce that’s in season will be more flavorful (think sweeter fruits, more vibrant lettuce) AND you can source it locally. Most produce in major grocery stores is imported from other countries. That means, typically, the produce is picked before peak ripeness and sprayed with chemicals to mechanically ripen it before it lands on grocery shelves.

For the best produce, look locally. This Eat Seasonally guide is specific to the West Coast of the United States, focusing on produce that is in season in California. What’s locally available may be different in your area depending your local climate.

The easiest way to shop seasonally is to visit your local farmers markets, or farm stands. This ensures the produce is locally sourced, and is most likely picked at peak ripeness. Ideally, there will also be a variety of organic options available.

Spring season runs from Saturday, March 20 to Sunday, June 20.

blooming flowers along a path
So many beautiful flowers! So many allergies!

SEASONAL PRODUCE GUIDES

Here are some online resources to see the full list of seasonal spring produce.

Have a Plant – Full list of spring produce, not broken down by region. Read more here.

Southland Farmers Market Association – Specific to the Southern California region. View the list here.

Pick Your Own – Features a full harvest calendar for all of California. View here.

cherry blossoms
Gorgeous cherry blossoms.

SPRING FRUITS

apricots

Apricots

May to August

cherries

Cherries

Mid-May through June

honeydew

Honeydew

June to October

limes

Limes

May to October

lychee

Lychee

Late spring through early fall

mango

Mango

May through September

pineapple

Pineapple

March through July

oranges

Oranges

December to April

strawberries

Strawberries

April to July

blueberries

Blueberries

May 15 to June 30

nectarines

Nectarines

May 20 – September 15

peaches

Peaches

May 20 – September 5

SPRING VEGETABLES

artichokes

Artichokes

March through May

asparagus

Asparagus

March to April

belgian endive

Belgian Endive

September through May

chives in a garden

Chives

March to June

cucumber

Cucumber

May to August

fennel bulbs

Fennel

March to May

vidalia onions

Vidalia Onions

April to early September

spinach

Spinach

Spring

mustard greens

Mustard Greens

April

rhubarb

Rhubarb

April through July

snow peas

Snow Peas

Spring to Early Summer

7 SPRING PRODUCE RECIPES

  1. Easy Steamed Artichokes – Recipe by Edible Ink

Artichokes are hearty, succulent, and bursting with richness. Look for bigger artichokes, with more green leaves than purple. This will ensure they are mature enough to be tender, and will yield a big heart (the best part!).

Serve artichokes as a side dish, or the main event. Pair with a sundried tomato orzo and Mediterranean chickpea salad for a fresh summery plant-based dinner!

Steamed Artichokes Recipe

2. Roasted Fennel with Garlic and Herbs – Recipe by Every Last Bite

Fennel, a perennial bulb of the carrot family, has a light, sweet taste with a hint of licorice. Enjoy thinly sliced in a spring salad with spinach, toasted pine nuts and an orange vinaigrette. Roasted with savory garlic and fresh herbs, it transforms into a delicious side dish.

This recipe caramelizes the fennel, bringing out its natural sweetness to offset the sharpness of the garlic and earthiness of the herbs. Omit the parmesan to keep it dairy-free & vegan!

roasted fennel
Decadent roasted fennel

3. Mustard Greens Salad – Recipe by Farm Fresh to You

If you like spicy and aren’t afraid of a bitter green, this fresh Mustard Green salad is for you. Mustard greens are comparable to the pepperiness of a fresh beet and the bite of fresh baby arugula. Add some fresh in-season spinach, finely chopped chives, and a handful of plump blueberries to offset the bitterness.

Mustard greens are commonly served cooked, as to eliminate the bite. We think this voracious green adds quite an edge to an otherwise simple salad and is greatly enjoyable eaten with a fresh vinaigrette!

mustard greens
Gorgeous mustard greens.

4. Savory Rhubarb Salsa – Recipe by Sabrina Currie

Rhubarb may most commonly be used as a pie filling so this take on rhubarb as a salsa base is fresh and creative. Macerate the diced rhubarb in sugar and vinegar to cancel out bitterness before building layers of flavor with cilantro, jalapeno and onion.

Try this simple Savory Rhubarb Salsa with a pork tenderloin for your next spring dinner.

rhubarb - whole and chopped
Look at that beautiful rhubarb!

5. Berry Stone Fruit Crisp – Recipe by Edible Ink

This easy delicious dessert uses the best fruits of spring – berries and stone fruit! Select any combination of fruit you’d like. Try a blueberry peach crisp or get adventurous with a cherry nectarine crisp. The options are endless.

For best results, utilize the best and ripest seasonal fruits you can find. This crisp is designed to be easily adapted to whatever fruits you have on hand. Snag a variety and enjoy!

6. Decadent Peach Buckle – Recipe by Edible Ink

Fresh peaches, brown sugar, light fluffy cake. This Decadent Peach Buckle has it all! And never fear — this detailed, easy-to-follow recipe walks you through the whole process of skinning the peaches and preparing the batter.

To assemble the buckle, lay down the light cake batter in the pan first, then add your sliced peaches on top. As it bakes, the juices from the peach will soak into the cake and the batter will rise up around the peaches, creating the perfect peachy bite. Yum.

7. Strawberry Cake – Recipe by Edible Ink

Here’s an ultimate cake hack — use Krusteaz Blueberry Muffin Mix to create this delectable strawberry cake! In this simple recipe, use fresh strawberries to make your own easy strawberry milk to bolster the flavor, and moisture, of this easy cake.

Sure it may sound a little nuts, but trust, it WORKS. The muffin mix holds up well to the dozens of diced strawberries, ensuring they are evenly distributed throughout the cake and that they don’t just all sink to the bottom. Serve it up for your next spring gathering!

Strawberry Cake – Dairy Free

Simple strawberry cake made from a boxed muffin mix? Yup. Comes together in 15 minutes with the help of some homemade strawberry milk for a luxe spring cake.

Jump to Recipe
finished strawberry cake
Look at this gorgeous cake.

Cake Hack

Sure, technically I suppose you could use a white cake mix and simply ~add strawberries~. But that wouldn’t be as good as this cake. I’ll tell you why.

Packed full of one cup of fresh chopped strawberries, this cake can get heavy. All those heavy strawberries in a light, white cake? Not a good balance.

blueberry muffin mix
The base for this Strawberry Cake

This muffin mix provides a much sturdier, much heartier base to support the plethora of fresh strawberries. The strawberries stay put in the batter (not sinking to the bottom, as they’d do in a thinner, lighter batter of a regular cake) and provide fresh jammy strawberry goodness in each bite.

I recommend serving this as is, no frosting, with a side of whipped cream or your favorite vanilla ice cream. Some fresh chopped mint would complement the strawberries well.

a slice of strawberry cake
Strawberry Cake perfection

Special Equipment (Kinda)

To make this strawberry cake, you’ll need a few special pieces of equipment.

  1. Cheesecloth
  2. Blender (or food processor)
  3. Liquid measuring cup
  4. 10″x7″ baking dish – I used this one.

These are all pretty common items. Pick up some cheesecloth at your grocery store if you don’t have any on hand. It’s relatively inexpensive and a versatile tool to have in your kitchen arsenal.

You’ll use the blender, cheesecloth and liquid measuring cup to create the strawberry milk. If you have a fat separator measuring cup (see below), use it! Rest the cheesecloth on the top strainer.

Again, if you don’t have these items, or if you just don’t feel like going through the effort of making the strawberry milk, you don’t have to. HOWEVER, I can’t guarantee the cake will be as tasty. Some things are worth the extra time, and this strawberry milk is one of them.

a fat separator
Fat Separator — Nifty, but not essential

A Note on the Strawberries

I recommend slicing your strawberries for the 1 cup measurement ahead of time. Since strawberries can vary widely in size, it will be easier to measure this first. For the 3-4 strawberries in the strawberry milk, gather your most average-sized, consistent strawberries from the lot and use for this purpose.

Taste your strawberries before using them in the cake. For best results, use the darkest, ripest and sweetest strawberries. If yours are a bit tart, that’s okay too! The sugar in the muffin mix will help compensate for that. Serve the cake with a sweet whipped cream and no one will ever know the difference. *wink*

For reference, these are the giant strawberries we have here at the fruit stands on the Central Coast. They are consistently the size of my palm and typically weigh 3 ounces each.

a giant strawberry
Behold — the king of all strawberries. Courtesy of Okui’s Farm Stand.

Strawberry Milk

Really, this cake gives you two hacks in one. The first, using the muffin mix. And the second — making your own strawberry milk.

See the instructions on the box call for 2/3 cup of water to be added to the batter. No sir. We don’t simply add water here.

Instead, we’re going to make our own fresh strawberry milk. Don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it is.

Essentially, we’re going to blend our preferred milk (almond, oat, etc.) with a few strawberries. Then, to ensure the cake isn’t full of too many strawberry seeds, we strain it through cheese cloth. And voila! Strawberry milk.

Set up your cheesecloth directly over your glass measuring cup. That way you can strain and measure at the same time, stopping when you reach the 2/3 cup that the recipe calls for.

Strawberry Cake – Dairy Free

This quick and easy strawberry cake recipe uses blueberry muffin mix as it's base. Comes together in 15 minutes, with the help of some homemade strawberry milk for a super moist, luxe spring cake.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Servings 12 slices

Equipment

  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Cheesecloth
  • Blender or food processor

Ingredients
  

  • 1 box Krusteaz blueberry muffin mix or other boxed muffin mix
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries chopped, plus 3-4 extra whole
  • cup milk of choice almond or oat work great!
  • 2 whole eggs large is best

Instructions
 

Make the strawberry milk

  • Instead of using water like the box suggests, we're going to make a quick strawberry milk, which will help to keep the cake super moist and infuse the strawberry flavor evenly throughout.
    Making the strawberry milk is technically optional, but for best results it's recommended.
  • First, take your 3-4 whole strawberries and remove the tops. Quarter the strawberries and add to a blender (or food processor) with 2/3 cup milk.
  • Blend the berries and milk together well, ensuring there are no chunks.
  • Set up to strain the milk. This step is optional, but makes the cake smoother by removing the extra seeds.
    Place a piece of cheesecloth over the top of the liquid measuring cup. You can use a fine strainer or sieve to place the cheesecloth on so it is more secure.
    Slowly pour the strawberry milk over the cheesecloth into the measuring cup, squeezing out extra liquid as necessary. Stop when the milk has reached the 2/3 cup mark on the measuring cup.

Mix the batter

  • Set the oven to 350°F. Line a 10"x7" baking dish with parchment paper. This makes it easier to remove the cake from the pan after baking.
  • Open the box of Krusteaz blueberry muffin mix. Remove the dry mix and the can of blueberries.
    Set the blueberries aside for later use. See recipe notes for ideas.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the dry muffin mix, vegetable oil, eggs, ⅔ cup strained strawberry milk. Mix well to combine.
  • Gently fold in the 1 cup chopped strawberries, ensuring even distribution throughout the mix.
  • Pour the batter into the pan lined with parchment.
    It may be thick. That's good! We want the batter to be thicker, because the strawberries will release their own juices as the cake cooks.
    Smooth out the batter as best you can to ensure even coverage.
  • Bake at 350° for 48 minutes, checking for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. It should come out clean.
  • Leave in the baking dish for about 20 minutes, then remove from the dish and let cool on a rack or cutting board until ready to serve.

Notes

How to use your extra can of blueberries:
  • Mixed into oatmeal.
  • Blended in a smoothie.
  • On top of ice cream.
  • In a homemade parfait with yogurt and granola.

Have you tried this strawberry cake?

Tell us about it in the comments below!