Summer comes with a flood of fruit and vegetables (many of which are also really fruits, such as tomatoes), and autumn and winter have a solid bounty that lasts for months, but spring – especially in Tasmania – marks its presence with a small handful of treats, notable for their quality more than their quantity. The true essence of spring – if we discount produce that is grown using artificially extended seasons in hothouses – to me is three key “vegetables”: new potatoes (our favoured variety in the south of Tasmania being the Pink Eye, although in the north the Bismarck is the new potato of choice); asparagus; and garlic scapes. Globe artichokes are a rare commodity, and strawberries are really a harbinger of summer rather than a true spring crop, but this holy trinity of delicious things – which rather neatly are also delicious when eaten together – are what spring in Tasmania is all about. They’re also really only available for a small part of the year – while pink eyes are technically available for a lot longer than the other two, the sweet, small spring ones are just a bit more exciting than the larger, later pink eyes with fully set skins.
Asparagus tends to come first; new season pink eyes are generally the second entrant – an appropriate word as it’s always a race by growers to get their potatoes on the market before the glut causes the prices to go from soaring heights to crushing lows. With so much garlic grown in Tasmania, garlic scapes are an inevitable, but not always well-utilised, by-product. It’ll be a couple of weeks til fresh garlic bulbs are available, and cured garlic won’t be ready til closer to Christmas, but the mild flavour of garlic scapes to me is irresistible, and their round stems are so easy to prepare for whatever you might like to use garlic for, whether you want to mince them fine, slice for a pasta dish or keep in larger chunks for a green, spring stir-fry.