If you want to make the most of the taste and benefits of spring vegetables, learn how to ferment them!
Through fermentation, rediscover iconic spring vegetables like radishes, asparagus, and fiddleheads.
But don’t stop there! Fermentation allows you to explore a whole world of spring flavours. Learn how to prepare sprouts, flowers, stems, and even some leaves through lacto-fermentation.
This article will give you the guidelines to enjoy the freshness of these early spring vegetables.
For other types of fermentations, see our article on how to flavour your fermented drinks with wild plants from Canada.
In a hurry? Jump straight to the vegetable you’re interested in:
Why Ferment Spring Vegetables?
After the long winter, what a pleasure it is to have fresh field vegetables again! These vegetables are loaded with water, flavour, vitamins, and essential minerals.
However, spring vegetables have a relatively short harvesting season. It is important to make the most of them!
Lacto-fermentation is a preservation technique that has many benefits:
- Increases health benefits: Once fermented, food is more digestible, richer in nutrients, and packed with bacteria that are beneficial to our health, especially our digestion.
- Extends the harvest season: Although some spring vegetables have a harvest season of a few weeks, fermentation allows you to enjoy them for a longer period.
- Brings out all the flavours of the new season: Spring vegetables are tasty, and sometimes have special and unique tastes. Fermentation develops new flavours, including pleasant acidity.
- Provides more ways to eat local food: You can be left with a lot of vegetables and no inspiration for how to prepare them. Lacto-fermentation opens up new horizons.
For more information, see our article on the benefits of fermented vegetables.
Recipes for Fermenting Spring Vegetables
The following recipes are meant to give you some ideas. You can later experiment with your favourite herbs and spices!
Looking for inspiration? Check out our fermented vegetable recipes.
To find out how to proceed, check out our complete guide on making fermented vegetables.
Asparagus taste best in spring! The fresher they are, the better they ferment.
To keep asparagus crisp during fermentation, here are a few tips:
- Use medium to large asparagus
- Choose freshly picked asparagus
- Add a source of tannins (grape leaf)
- Keep the fermentation short (1 to 2 weeks)
Recipe for Pickled Asparagus in Brine
Remove the fibrous ends of the asparagus and cut them into sections of equal length. Place in a jar in a 2% brine solution. For the seasoning, use pickle spices (garlic, mustard seed, dill), or add a few slices of onion.
Recipe for White Asparagus With Lemon
Replace green asparagus with white ones, which have a more delicate taste. Put in a 2% brine solution, with a slice of lemon and a piece of ginger.
Radish is THE iconic spring vegetable! First sown, first harvested, first tasted! We also love their wide variety of shapes, colours, and tastes.
When fermented, the taste of radishes softens and loses its spiciness. If you keep the fermentation short, they will keep their crunchiness. You can then enjoy their delicate, fresh taste.
Recipe for Shredded Fermented Radishes
Weigh and shred the radishes. Massage with 2% salt and put in a jar. Let it ferment for at least 3 weeks.
Recipe for Pink Radishes in Brine
Slice the radishes thinly (or cut them into quarters) and stack them in a jar. Add a few garlic cloves and peppercorns and cover with a 2% brine solution. Let it ferment for at least a week.
In the brine, the peel colours the whole radish, which produces pretty pink radishes!
Recipe for Radish Kimchi With Stem
If you grow your radishes, you know how much leaves they can produce! To avoid losing this greenery, turn your radishes into chonggak kimchi, or “ponytail” kimchi.
Rinse the radishes and leaves roughly. Coarsely chop and mix in a bowl with Korean chili, ginger, garlic, and 2% salt. Massage to soften the radish stems and to remove water. Place in a jar and let it ferment for one to two weeks.
Can you ferment rhubarb? Yes! Its already tangy taste becomes more nuanced. Rhubarb is delicious in both sweet and savoury dishes. It can be made into pickles or chutney.
You can even use fermented rhubarb in sushi! Seasoned rice goes well with the tangy taste of rhubarb.
Recipe for Fermented Rhubarb Pickles
Place rhubarb sticks upright in a jar. Cover with a 2% brine solution. You can also add a little sugar, for sweet and sour pickles that will surprise everyone (will leave no one indifferent).
Recipe for Fermented Rhubarb Chutney
Slice the rhubarb and onions, and add cranberries. Put in a jar with 2% salt and let it ferment for a week. It will be a hit on a cream cheese bagel!
Fiddleheads are only available a few weeks a year. Take the opportunity to ferment them!
As with all fiddlehead recipes, they should be boiled for 15 minutes before being prepared. We recommend adding raw vegetables or a source of lactic acid bacteria to ensure proper fermentation.
Recipe for Fermented Fiddleheads
After boiling the fiddleheads for 15 minutes, discard the water and allow them to cool. Stack in a jar with shredded cabbage, garlic, and a grape leaf (lactic acid bacteria source is optional but recommended). Cover with a 2% brine solution and ferment for 3 to 4 weeks.
For more information, check out the recipe in the book “Fermentation Revolution“.
Ramps (wild garlic)
Ramp, also known as wild garlic, is one of the most sought-after plants in spring. Its leaves have a delicate taste, and its bulb is milder than a traditional garlic clove. However, when fermented, ramps have a strong taste. Yummy!
Caution! This is a vulnerable species in Quebec. Ferment it only if you can obtain it responsibly and sustainably.
Recipe for Fermented Ramps Pesto
Coarsely chop the wild garlic and squeeze it firmly into a jar. If you wish, combine it with other spring herbs (arugula, nettle, sage, etc.) Cover with a 2% brine solution and let it ferment for at least a week. Puree and serve as a pesto.
Recipe for Wild Garlic Bulbs in Brine
Stack the bulbs in a jar and cover them with a 2% brine solution. Let it ferment for a few weeks.
Wild Garlic Kimchi Recipe
Wild garlic leaves are great for kimchi! Incorporate wild garlic leaves into your favourite kimchi recipe, or instead, substitute cabbage with wild garlic leaves.
Flower Buds (Dandelion, Daisy, Chives, Etc.)
Did you know that … capers are the pickled buds of caper flowers? However, local capers can be made from edible flower buds!
Wild capers are made from flowers such as dandelions, daisies, nasturtiums, etc. They should be harvested when they are still immature, green, and in buds.
Recipe for Daisy Bud Capers in Brine
Pick the daisy buds while they are still green, and remove the small leaves at the base. Rinse and put them in a jar before covering them with a 3% brine solution. Let it ferment for at least 2 weeks.
Recipe for Chive Flower Kimchi
Add a handful of chive flowers to your kimchi recipe to replace the onion, green onion, or garlic. Let it ferment for a few days.
You can also try buchu kimchi, kimchi made with Korean chives. Be careful, chives tend to soften during fermentation. Only ferment for a few days.
Grape Leaves (vine leaves)
Grape leaves, or vine leaves, are edible all year round, but not always pleasant to eat!
To have beautiful, tender leaves, harvest the grape leaves from the end of May to the beginning of June. If you wait too long, they will be too tough to be enjoyed.
We like to ferment grape leaves to make dolmas, Greek-style stuffed grape leaves.
Grape leaves will be useful again during the season of fermented pickles. The tannins in the grape leaves keep the pickles crunchy.
Grape Leaves Recipe for Dolmas
Roll and stack grape leaves in a jar with garlic cloves and dill. Cover with a 4% brine solution and let it ferment for 2 to 3 weeks.
Check out the book “Fermentation Revolution” for the full recipe.
Spruce tips are an unsuspected addition to the northern pantry! Picked in the spring, they have a strong resinous taste with a slight bitterness and lemony notes.
Spruce tips are picked while they are still covered with a small resinous cap. They are then very soft, very tender and not at all fibrous.
Spruce shoots can be used in traditional spruce beer, but their bitterness and special flavours also work well in lacto-fermentation.
Recipe for Fermented Spruce Tips
Remove the resinous caps from the spruce tips. Rinse and put in a jar with a 2% brine. Let ferment for at least one week.
Spruce tips can be used instead of rosemary in recipes to flavour meats, dressings, cocktails or fish.
Recipe for Spruce Tips Sauerkraut
Add a few sprouts to your favourite sauerkraut recipe. This northern spice adds a lot of personality to cabbage!