Winter can seem interminable, especially on Long Island, when summer brings with it beach weather. But the reward for having suffered through yet another cold season is the produce fighting its way above ground in spring. Sometimes it feels like waiting for the first round of produce is tantamount to waiting for a pot of water to boil. But, oh, when it boils…
In April, the first long-awaited crops arrive. Perhaps the most joyfully anticipated of these is the asparagus. This perennial will produce well into June (and sometimes later, depending on the season), but the first of the bunch is often the best, largely due to the fact that fresh vegetables have been hard to come by through winter. April also brings with it spinach, spring onions, and leafy greens, like kale and mustard greens. In certain areas, you can find fiddleheads, the curly tops of the fern plant, which are best served sautéed in a bit of butter.
Come May, broccoli, radish, and lettuce arrive, along with the first fruits of the season: strawberries and rhubarb. English peas and morel mushrooms are also early spring arrivals, with sugar snap peas joining the crew in June. As summer approaches, expect more kale, cabbage, all variety of beans, cucumbers, Swiss chard, zucchini, and sweet cherries.
Where should you shop for your produce on the North Fork, now that the season has started? Depending on where you are, there are many great options. In East Marion, Sep’s Farm sells outstanding produce, as well as baked goods and jarred and canned items. Known largely for their corn and tomato crop (which makes its appearance no earlier than July), the farm has all manner of fruits and vegetables available during spring, summer, and fall.
At Sang Lee Farms, in Peconic, the Lee family has been growing fruits and vegetables for 70 years. The farm is now certified organic, and all of their prepared foods — which range from soups to salad dressings to baked goods — are certified organic, too. Sang Lee is also a fixture at the Riverhead Indoor Farmer’s Market, the Westhampton Beach Farmer’s Market, the Northport Farmer’s Market, and the East Hampton Farmer’s Market.
For fruit (and fruit-based baked goods), Wickham’s Fruit Farm stands alone, with some of the greatest sweet stuff on Long Island. Wickham’s is now the only farm growing the coveted sour cherry on Long Island, from which they make superlative July pies. They also operate a u-pick orchard, where patrons can pick fruit directly from the trees and fields. Wickham’s crops include apricots, strawberries, peaches, plums, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, pears, and grapes. Farther west, Briermere Farms is also known for their orchards and fruit pies (some of which are so coveted that they need to be reserved in advance). Their deep orange apricots, which enjoy a particularly short season, are among Long Island’s finest fruits.
Now that the weather has warmed, there’s no shortage of green stuff. The real challenge is deciding where to shop!