The tender green of the trees in Prospect Park is a sure sign that spring is here. But, look beyond the park to the many mouthwatering farmers’ markets that Brooklyn has to offer and you’ll notice that same verdant green echoed in the produce stands. Asparagus, peas, spinach, spring garlic, and okra are spilling over shoppers’ cloth bags and stylish baskets with the promise of inspired meals to come. Other than their earthy taste and eye-catching color, what do all of these vegetables have in common? Folate.
Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin that occurs naturally in food and is often added to a variety of processed foods. It is a key nutrient for creating new cells and maintaining existing cells, which is why it is particularly important during childhood and pregnancy. A diet adequate in folate has been proven to prevent birth defects that occur in the first trimester of pregnancy. In addition, it helps form DNA and RNA and has shown to have a role in preventing the DNA mutations that can cause cancer. Folate is extremely important for forming red blood cells. There are multiple studies that show that a diet deficient in folate may lead to psychological conditions such as depression. Adults should aim for 400 micrograms of folate a day, while pregnant women should consume 600 micrograms.
Folate is found in high levels in some of spring’s biggest vegetable stars. (As a side note, consider the coincidence of these high folate foods flourishing during this time of rebirth and fertility!) For a folate rich, cell growing side-dish, try this recipe.
Spring Vegetable Sauté
Serves 6, provides 160 mcg folate per serving
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup freshly shelled peas
- 1 lb. asparagus, woody ends removed and cut in thirds
- 1 long stalk spring garlic, hairy end removed and cut into thin slices
- ½ lb. okra pods, stem end removed and cut into ½ inch slices
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
- 1 lb. spinach, stems removed and torn into large pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat
- Add peas, asparagus, garlic and okra and sauté 5-7 minutes, until slightly soft and beginning to brown
- Add turmeric, orange zest, and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted and the other vegetables are brown
- Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately