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Spring Vegetable Recipes and Tips

Fresh seasonal veggies are one more reason to celebrate spring.

Broccoli

If you don't like broccoli, chances are you've had it overcooked in the past. When broccoli is overcooked, its bright green color turns to dingy dark green and its flavor can go from pleasantly subtle to stinky-strong. If you're willing to give broccoli another try, try it raw in salad or as an appetizer with a light dip; lightly cooked in a stir fry; or steamed. It's worth the trouble because broccoli is what I would call a super-vegetable. One cup of fresh florets provides 2 grams of fiber, 2,130 international units (IU) of vitamin A, 66 milligrams of vitamin C, and 50 micrograms of folate, all for 20 measly calories.

  • To buy: Look for odorless heads with tight, bluish-green florets. If the floret part is yellow, it's been there too long.
  • To store: Broccoli will keep well in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days.
  • To cook: Cook just until tender by stir-frying, steaming, or in the microwave. Watch the cooking time carefully to avoid overcooking.

Green Beans

Green beans are a popular side dish and a welcome addition to salads. Each cup of cooked snap green beans contributes 4 grams of fiber, 100 milligrams of plant omega-3s, 875 IU of vitamin A (some of which is from beta carotene), 41 micrograms of folate, and 55 milligrams of calcium. You'll get all of those nutritional benefits for only 44 calories.

  • To buy: Look for fresh, well-colored beans. If they're limp and don't snap, put them back.
  • To store: Keep green beans in a plastic bag in the refrigerator; try to use within a week.
  • To cook: Snap off ends by hand or trim off with a paring knife. Green beans can be cooked whole or cut into 2-inch diagonal slices. Cook until tender-crisp in the microwave, stir-fry in a nonstick pan with a small amount of oil; or blanch (plunge into boiling water briefly until just tender, then rinse in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process).

Spinach

Spinach, a member of the powerhouse "dark green leafy vegetable" group, is loaded with antioxidants such as beta carotene (3,375 micrograms per 2 cups of fresh chopped), vitamin C (17 milligrams) and folate (116 micrograms). Two cups of fresh chopped spinach also has a good dose of calcium (59 milligrams) and omega-3 fatty acids (100 milligrams).

  • To buy: Look for crisp green bunches without insect damage or browning.
  • To store: Loosely wrap bunches of spinach in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic bag. Use within a few days. The most convenient way to buy spinach is prewashed in bags. When buying these bags, check the "sell by" date.
  • To cook: Cook until it shrinks down but stays bright green, in the microwave, or a nonstick frying pan over medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of water, broth, or wine.

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