Seasonal menus are a great way to feature the flavor profiles of that time of year. Featuring limited-time ingredients on your menu means they are being used during peak times. As these fruits and vegetables are in abundance, it also has cost-saving benefits.
Food trends are constantly changing and evolving; while we love spring peas and asparagus, this is an excellent opportunity to incorporate more opulent ingredients into your menu! If you’re looking to add these highly sought-after ingredients to your menu, here are the locations and times of the year they will be in peak season:
One of the most delicious signs of spring is ramp season! Otherwise known as wild spring onions, they resemble scallions and have a bold, garlic-onion flavor. Available from late April to early June, ramps are versatile and can be enjoyed raw, sauteed, roasted, and as a pizza topping. These wild onions can be foraged all over the United States and Canada and are especially prevalent in the Appalachian region.
May is prime time to find these mysterious, miracle fungi! These wild mushrooms can appear overnight and can be maddeningly difficult to find. The Goldilocks of mushrooms; morels are often found near the roots of trees, when the soil temperatures are in the 50s and when it has rained, but not too much.
Since the morel season is dependent on the weather, the great morel hunt can start in March if you’re in the Deep South. Those in the Mid-South and Midwest will find that the ideal mushroom season is April through May. For the Northeast and upper Midwest, May through June is prime time.
If you think ferns are only for sitting in the corner of your living room, you’re wrong. Fiddlehead ferns are the most whimsical vegetable around! You’ll find the flavor profile to be sweet asparagus and grassy.
Foraged from the ostrich fern, these small coils of green can be found across the United States, Europe, Asia, and Canada from mid-April through May. New Brunswick even calls itself the Fiddlehead Capital of the World! Due to their short season, pickling fiddlehead ferns is a great way to extend the life of this ingredient.
This coveted crustacean is available year-round, with the primary season from October to January. Stone crab season begins mid-October and runs through May, with the prime time being during the late fall and winter months. These crabs can be found throughout Florida, but are primarily harvested in Southeast Florida, the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida. Dungeness crab, located in the Pacific Ocean, is in season from early November through late June. The prime time for Dungeness crab is during the winter months, making them a great feature during the holidays.
Alaskan King Crab is, unsurprisingly, found in the waters surrounding Alaska. However, the season for this crustacean varies throughout the state. For example, the season in the Arctic Ocean area runs from July to September. While in the Bristol Bay, Bering Sea area, the red king crab season is from the middle of October through mid-January, and the brown king crab can be caught from August through the end of May.
No need to work on your Truffle Shuffle as these diamonds of the earth cannot be planted. Instead, they must be hunted for in the woods, meadows, and mountains with trained dogs, with each variety available only a few months out of the year. The majority of truffles can be found in Italy, France, and the Pacific Northwest.
There are three varieties of truffles, white, black, and burgundy. The white variety is pungent with notes of shallot and is in season from September to December and May to August. The black truffle is earthy and robust; it is found in season from December to early March and May to August. The burgundy variety is more delicate and aromatic and is in season from September to December. The bianchetti truffle, a cousin to the white truffle, can be found in February and March and tends to carry a lower price tag than its fancier family members.
Saffron is exceptionally fragrant and subtle. Slightly sweet and luxurious, this distinct taste is difficult to describe but instantly recognizable in a dish. These vivid crimson strands are the world’s most expensive spice. Harvested from a flower called crocus sativus, it is primarily grown in Iran, Greece, Morocco, and India. Unfortunately, each flower produces only THREE of those vibrant red threads, and it blooms for only one week a year. As a result, saffron must be harvested by hand and only in the mid-morning!
While the hunt for these ingredients is more than heading to your favorite farm, the reward of a beautiful meal is worth the adventure! If you’re not ready to don your best wellies to go hiking in the woods, there are many specialty suppliers who can help you source these hard to find items. While restaurants have streamlined their menus, incorporating these elusive seasonal ingredients into your menu for limited-time offerings is a great way to attract new customers and let your creativity shine.
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