Ah, springtime. The flowers pop up their pretty little heads. The birds begin their real-life tweetstorm. And you? After a slogging through a long winter, you’re likely ready to relish the bounty of a new, greener season. Fortunately, you’re not alone in this desire. Below are eight ways communities around the world celebrate the season that brings fresh life to their gardens and markets—and to their plates.
South Louisiana/East Texas
They’re tiny and tart, and you might have to put on a pair of waders to get them. The product of a swamp-loving tree, mayhaw berries are a cult favorite among foragers and chefs throughout the Gulf South. The clusters of ruby-hued berries primarily find their way into jams and jellies, which can be picked up at farmers’ markets across the region.
Where to find them: Lafayette, Louisiana
How to eat it: In jelly form (smeared on a slice of bread) or candied
A member of the mustard family, shepherd’s purse derives its twee title from the heart-shaped seedpods, which resemble—you guessed it—the small bags shepherds once used to carry goods while tending to their flocks. The leafy greens have a slightly peppery, radishlike bite and are often cooked into wontons and dumplings.
Where to find it: The suburbs (and countryside) around Shanghai
How to eat it: Fashioned into a wonton, ideally featured alongside pork
Western North Carolina
Morel mushrooms go by a lot of nicknames throughout Appalachia: dry land fish, hickory chickens, and molly moochers, just to name a few. Found in and around the mountain city of Asheville, morels with their spongy, porous bodies and trufflelike flavor are a hot commodity for restaurants looking to source directly from the wilderness. Try them sautéed alongside ramps or fiddleheads for a top-to-bottom taste of the area.
Where to find them: Asheville, North Carolina
How to eat them: Sautéed with a generous pat of butter and served in pasta
Fat bushels of loboda—a burgundy- or emerald-colored kissing-cousin of spinach—are a harbinger of springtime at outdoor markets across Romania. In the kitchen? The vegetable makes a fine addition to salads and is also the star of a chilled sour-and-creamy red loboda soup.
Where to find it: Bucharest, Romania
How to eat it: Cooked into a widely beloved sour soup, complete with a bevy of other spring vegetables
Discovering a local fruit is always a joy—it feels like you’ve been let in on a juicy, delicious secret. Come spring in the highlands of Japan, loquats hang like supple glowing orbs. With a flavor akin to an apricot-plum hybrid, they are beloved both fresh and made into a slew of chutneys, marmalades, and butters. Looking to really take it from branch-to-mouth? Loquat picking is a favorite pastime in the mountains of Chiba and attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Where to find them: Chiba Prefecture, Japan
How to eat them: Washed off and placed directly into your mouth
When vibrant green broad beans are in season, the Maltese find a way to add them to, well, just about everything. Two local favorites: the omnipresent dip, bigilla, in which beans are mashed with garlic and a slurry of herbs, and kusksu, a changing-of-the-seasons soup that brings together broad beans, peas, couscous, Maltese cheese, and an egg.
Where to find them: Birgu, Malta
How to eat them: Whirred with garlic into a dip known as bigilla
Jukkumi, an odd kind of cephalopod, looks like an octopus but is much smaller, with short legs and a meaty body. In coastal towns throughout South Korea, jukkumi are considered a tender springtime delicacy—it’s the season when female jukkumi are filled with roe. From mid-March through early April, festivals throughout the region celebrate their harvest.
Where to find them: Seocheon, South Korea
How to eat them: Stir-fried, oh so gently, with red chili sauce
An herb that trumpets the arrival of warmer weather with its uniquely citrusy bite, sorrel adds a burst of lemon-pucker to fish dishes. Ukrainians also use the herb as the basis for shav, a soup that combines the brightness of sorrel with the heartiness of root vegetables, chicken, eggs, and a swirl of sour cream.
Where to find it: Kiev, Ukraine
How to eat it: In shav, a traditional soup
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