At the Greenmarket

Union Square Bursts Into Bloom

That's funny, we've been enjoying fresh herb all along.
That’s funny, we’ve been enjoying fresh herb all along.haha Photo: Zoe Singer

Farmers are just now planting seed; if storage potatoes and onions don’t scratch your spring foraging itch, greenhouse greens and a profusion of flowering plants, budding fruit-tree branches, cut flowers, and potted herbs should do it. We’ll be keeping tabs on seasonal foods at the gourmet markets until local produce is going strong.

What to Look For
To give recipes a spring makeover, stock up on potted fresh herbs. In addition to basics like rosemary and thyme, look for unusual scented varieties like pineapple sage and chocolate mint as well as more obscure herbs: Epazote is used in Mexican cooking to lend a musky flavor to beans; mugwort is traditional with goose; and zaatar, a marjoram relative, is typically combined with sumac and sesame seeds for the spice blend of the same name (fresh herbs are $4.50 per pot at Oak Grove, available Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday).

Green garlic, a.k.a. spring garlic, is slim and scallionlike, with a small, edible white bulb. It’s greenhouse-grown right now, but the sweet and nutty flavor that it develops when sautéed is perfect for gently flavored spring dishes where storage garlic might seem sharp. Harness the grassy, pungent punch of the shoots by using them raw (recipe) (organic green garlic is $2.50 per bunch at D’Attolico, available Saturday).

Maple syrup is one of the year’s first crops. Trees are tapped between the first major thaw and the end of nighttime freezes, and the syrup is graded, with A being lighter and B darker. Try Grade A medium amber for a light-bodied pancake syrup with hints of caramel and coffee, or get the molasses-like B grade for a heartier taste and thicker body that works well in recipes like this one. For Easter, stock up on quaint maple sugar bunnies (syrup starts at $3 per 100 milliliters, and rabbits are $2 each at Wood Homestead, available Saturday).

Surprisingly tart pointy-leafed sorrel tastes like the lovechild of spinach and fresh lemon juice. John Gorzynski, back after a winter hiatus, is bringing his tender yet full-flavored greenhouse sorrel to market. Combined with end-of-winter potatoes, it makes a great soup (recipe) ($2 per bunch at Gorzynski, available Saturday).

Ripe for the Moment
Horseradish is called for on Passover (which begins tonight) to represent the bitterness of affliction. Indeed, peeling and grating the fibrous, nostril-and-eye-stinging root is a bitter task. Though the larger roots at supermarkets and gourmet markets are easier to handle, you’ll find gnarled little horseradish at the Greenmarket. For non-Seder dinners, mellow the spicy root in dishes like this orecchiette (widely available). — Zoe Singer

Union Square Bursts Into Bloom