Nature’s pHarmacy™ – April Produce

Now that it’s April, weekly Farmer’s Markets and Spring Markets are reopening across the country. While exact timing may vary from state to state, let’s take a look at some of the seasonal produce you are likely to find locally in April, and why buying local is a great idea!

Why buy locally?

There are both economic reasons and health reasons to frequent your local Farmer’s Market or purchase a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). At a Farmers’ Market, representatives from various local farms set up shop for a few hours to sell their produce directly to consumers. With a CSA, a specific farm sells “shares” of its products in advance and pulls together a variety of fresh produce every week for shareholders to pick up at the farm, or at designated pick-up points.

Economically, buying locally helps stimulate the regional economy, create local jobs, and reduce the environmental impact of shipping crops across long distances. From a health perspective, many local farmers are choosing to eschew chemical pesticides in favor of organic and natural pest repellants. Since the farmers or their employees are onsite, you can speak with each grower to learn their practices. This gives you the opportunity to select food from those farms using organic or biodynamic growing methods. In addition, since the produce is literally moving from farm to table, no additional preservatives are needed, as they might be with commercial produce being shipped long-distances. The nutritional value of locally grown produce is also greater because the time from harvest to consumption is shorter, so nutrients have less time to degrade. And finally, you are consuming food that is harvested at its peak of flavor, in its natural growing season.

What can you expect to find in April?

While the actual availability date may vary from state to state, the first products you can expect to see in April include the following:

Spring Flowers

Many farms now grow daffodils and tulips to provide nectar for early season pollinators and help keep pests away.  They brighten up the market tents, and can brighten your home, as well as boost your mood!

Green Leafy Vegetables

Some of the earliest vegetables you will find at Spring markets are green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and arugula. You may see them alone, or as components of spring salad mixes that contain a variety of young leafy greens. As a group, these leafy greens contain vitamins A, C, K, and folate, and a variety of minerals and plant compounds that are beneficial to eye health, bone health, heart health, and more. They contain antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, and fiber and water that promote healthy digestion and help moderate blood sugar levels.

Fun fact… leafy greens such as spinach, kale and arugula contain chlorophyll, which can help bind and detoxify carcinogenic compounds formed when animal proteins are grilled at high temperatures. Eating green leafy vegetables with your steak, for example, may limit the risk of absorbing these cancer-causing compounds.

Before consuming leafy greens, check with your doctor if you are prone to kidney stones (oxalates in spinach, chard, kale, and other greens may aggravate), or if you are taking blood thinners for a clotting disorder (vitamin K in these greens may interfere).

Be sure to wash all  greens carefully, and always choose organic/biodynamic. Here is a little more information about some popular spring greens:

Lettuce: In the spring, you are likely to see loose-leaf varieties rather than head lettuce at the Farmer’s Market, with romaine being the most nutritious type. Fun Fact: 95% of raw lettuce is made up of water; a higher percentage than that found in watermelon!

Spinach: Those of us old enough to remember Popeye, know that you’ll be “strong to the finish” if you eat your spinach! In addition to a plethora of vitamins, bioactive plant compounds, and other minerals, both raw and cooked spinach contain iron, which is needed for blood cell development. Fun Fact: During medieval times, the green pigment in spinach was extracted and used as ink.

Arugula: Considered a superfood, arugula contains many vitamins, minerals and plant compounds, and possesses an impressive antioxidant profile. Its peppery bite makes it a flavorful addition to any salad. Fun fact: Arugula has been used historically as an aphrodisiac, and a 2013 study showed that an arugula extract can increase testosterone levels and sperm production in male mice.

Swiss Chard: A member of the same family as beets and spinach, Swiss chard is a leafy green native to the Mediterranean that packs quite the nutritional punch. In addition to vitamins, minerals, and flavonoid antioxidants, Swiss chard contains more than 300% of the daily requirement of vitamin K, which is great for bone health and blood clotting, but do ask your doctor about eating chard if you are taking a blood thinner. Fun fact: Swiss chard does not come from Switzerland, but rather from Sicily, Italy. It got its “Swiss” moniker as a nod to the Swiss botanist who determined its scientific name.

Kale: Another nutritional powerhouse superfood, with vitamins, minerals, plant compounds, and even an omega-3 fatty acid, kale has been enjoyed since Roman times and is common across all of Europe. Many varieties exist and all have slightly different flavors. Fun fact: Kale comes in a variety of colors such as white, green, blue-green, and purple. At Spring markets, you may find baby kale available, as well as other early spring varieties.

Bok Choy: This Chinese white cabbage variety is best enjoyed cooked in stir-fries and in soup. Due to its impressive nutrient profile, bok choy may be beneficial for bone health, heart health, and thyroid function. Fun Fact: “Bok choy” means “white vegetable,” and it has been grown in China for more than 6,000 years.


Spring radishes add a welcome pop of color to an April Farmer’s market booth. Spring radish varieties are typically thin skinned and more tender than their summer counterparts. Sliced spring radishes add a mild, peppery flavor to a tossed salad. You may see Cherry Belle (the common red radish), rainbow radishes, or even a white or purple spring variety. Radishes contain a good amount of Vitamin C and smaller amounts of B-vitamins, vitamin K, and various minerals. A protein found in radishes, RsAFP2, has been shown to have antifungal properties, especially against Candida albicans. Fun fact: Both horseradish and wasabi are types of radish!

Spring Onion, Scallions, and Chives

Although similar in flavor, spring onions, scallions, and chives are different alliums that can be found at Farmer’s Markets in April. Spring onions have a small bulb on the end; they are basically onions that have been harvested early, and not dried. The flavor is milder than that of a regular onion, and a little sweet. Scallions, also called, “green onions,” do not have a bulb, and have a similar, but softer, flavor and bite as a bulb onion. The nutritional profiles of both spring onions and scallions are nearly identical, including vitamins, minerals, and bioactive plant compounds. Antioxidants and phytonutrients in raw scallions and spring onions protect your cells from oxidative stress and inflammation. Extracts have been shown to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses and protect against stomach cancer.

Chives are smaller and more delicate than scallions and spring onions in appearance and in taste. They are considered an herb, rather than a vegetable. Chives, when compared to an equivalent weight of scallions, contain nearly 5x as much vitamin A, 3x as much vitamin C, twice as much magnesium, and nearly twice as much folate and protein. This site has more information and a handy comparison table of chive and scallion nutrients. Scallions and spring onions can be lightly cooked, whereas chives are more delicate and are best added as a garnish. Fun Fact: You can re-grow scallions by placing the root section into a jar of water on the windowsill. Add water as needed, and you should have enough green scallions for your next recipe within a week!


The last spring market item we are going to talk about today is the pickle. Because pickles are preserved in vinegar, many farmers will pickle their summer cucumber, beet, and carrot crops with dill and other herbs to sell at the April markets, and year-round.

Check out our new pickle recipe here!

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