Cold days and nights are a thing of a past now. The sun is shining longer, and the temperature during the day rises by the day. The pleasant smell of spring is in the air, and nature is waking up after a long, winter sleep. Spring welcomes us with open hands, and treasures of nature are blooming, making their way up into the sky. We use early vegetables more and more often in our kitchens.
-The best time of year for us is beginning, the time when nature is waking up. First vegetables appear: young cabbage, carrot, beets, even rhubarb. I, personally, am looking forward to green asparaguses. If weather permits, there is a strong chance that we will be able to include them in the menu before the beginning of May, along with beef tenderloin, aioli with black garlic, and new potatoes. Another early spring gift of nature that I am looking forward to is pine shoots. These will probably appear in a chocolate dessert with forest fruit, but I’m pretty certain that not only there – says Jacek Koprowski, head chef at Gdynia-based Sztuczka restaurant.
-Currently, we can get young vegetables from a shop. However, these don’t have much in common with the “granddad’s” spring vegetables from a garden, meticulously cared after and exposed to as much sun as possible during the day, and put under a foil, or even a blanket, at night so they don’t get cold -says Paweł Pawluk, head chef at Kozi Gród hotel. – Such vegetables are planted in good quality, humus soil. Before that, they are sown into wooden boxes and planted into ground, with no fertilisers or chemicals. These are the vegetables I prefer. Chives grown this way is already available. Kale is beginning to grow rapidly, so plates will become green in a moment. At this moment in the kitchen of Kozi Gród hotel, I’m using many different wild plants, which I personally like. These include white goosefoot, or young sorrel leaves that I use in soups. I also like to use black caraway and common chickweed, which grows fast and is delicious in salads.
More and more often, chefs try to grow herbs and vegetables on their own. They create their own, small gardens, or co-operate with eco-farms. These – having full trust – deliver top quality natural products straight to restaurants.
-For several months now I have been growing young salad and micro herbs, using LED lamps. This allows me to have fresh and interesting products all year round. Besides, this gives me 100% certainty that no artificial fertilisers and chemicals are used. These various compounds are especially dangerous in early vegetables – says Paweł Dołżonek, head chef at 1906 Gourmet Restaurant in Pałac Ciekocinko.
Among recommendations from his spring menu, there is an egg of green-legged partridge, prepared in 63 degrees Celsius, served with horseradish espuma, and his “home-grown” young salad. Mature salad will become a dish on its own, served with vinaigrette and fried speck.
Although for many people, early vegetables are more healthy than “regular” ones, there are some that believe that caution is advised…
-It is safest to consume early vegetable from ecological farms, where artificial fertilisers are not used – explains Paweł Dołżonek. – It is common knowledge that these compounds concentrate in young vegetables and can be hazardous for our health. As with everything we eat – it’s better to know where it came from.