Winter is quite awful for dedicated veggie growers. There is little in the garden to use on the dinner table and prices at supermarkets are skyrocketing. So, when it starts to get near spring, it is time to turn attention to the first veggies of the season. I like growing Asian vegetables early since that is my favorite cuisine and most enjoy the cooler weather.
Planting Vegetables in Spring
As winter fades, it is always so exciting to get the first plants in the garden. Late February is when I get super elated because I can sow some of my spring seeds. In our zone, they need to be started indoors for the most part if there is to be any hope of a harvest before the weather turns wickedly hot and stunts cool season plants. Using veggies from the first harvest is a life affirming event that heralds the growing season.
The joys of spring are much more than the warmer weather and the first signs of flowers. They are gustatory and infinite in their pleasure. I make a lot of dishes with those first vegetables and freeze what I can for summer recipes. One of the best ways to use the new produce is by making spring rolls. Which is why growing Asian vegetables is on my to-do list first thing.
How to Make Spring Rolls
I have been making spring rolls for decades. I first started at work where they were often featured on appetizer menus. Cut to today, and I make them for my own pleasure. The fresh produce combined with a zippy peanut sauce is to die for. I use bib lettuce, spring onions, snow peas, Bok choy, and many other garden delicacies. Shredded carrot adds color, while everything else is cut very small and lightly blanched. The big sheets of rice paper are easy to find in Asian markets, but some grocery chains will also carry these essentials of spring rolls. Some recipes call for rice vermicelli, but I use mung bean threads for extra nutrition. You can really add anything you like to spring rolls, as long as the food is not too crunchy, which will puncture the tender sheets. Meat and seafood are optional. I occasionally use tofu as well.
Soaking the rice sheets is the first step in making spring rolls. They need to be soaked just for a few seconds in warm water. Lay your ingredients in layers at the bottom one third of the paper. Add fresh herbs like cilantro or mint to pump up the flavor. Then you fold like a burrito. Fold the sides in and roll, sealing the roll with a bit of water.
The dip is important. Peanut sauce is lovely, but a simple dip of lime juice, fish sauce, a pinch of sugar, and garlic chili sauce is an easy, yummy dip. You can make them ahead but eat spring rolls within a day or so for the best experience.