Christine Burns Rudalevige adds carrots and parsnips to her springtime soup. Staff photos by Brianna Soukup

I am generally pretty pleased with what local farmers have for sale any time of year. But it seems like three root vegetables have been offered to me at the same frenzied pace Dorothy, Scarecrow and Tin Man used to get out of the dark and creepy forest.

Spring has sprung, for sure. But we are still weeks away from reaping the full reward of the seeds sown by Maine farmers since nighttime temperatures have consistently held above freezing. So that brings me back around to carrots and parsnips and beets. Oh my.

This time of year, I like to lighten up a bit. Not in the get-your-beach-body-ready sense, but more in terms of what I put on the plate, or in a bowl. The sentimentality for soup in winter makes sense because a cold body gravitates toward a big pot of something warm, especially when it is anchored by the substance and sweetness of root vegetables. Maine-based soup experts tell me it’s easier than I think to put a springtime spin on any root vegetable potage.

Add a strong cup of ginger tea to any root vegetable-based soup to wake up flavors and give it a bright, sharp new one, said Kathy Gunst, a Maine-based James Beard award-winning food writer and author of 16 cookbooks, one of which is called Soup Swap. The South Berwick resident also recommends adding fresh lemon zest or juice to a soup just before you serve it to add “brightness and a fresh, almost summery, flavor and color.”

Gunst grabs any springtime green she can get her hands on – beet greens, spinach, ramps, scallions or chives – as the main Maine ingredients in a soup. She sautés washed greens with chopped onion and celery root (or potato), simmers them with the root vegetables in stock, until the root vegetables are soft, and then purees the mixture into a creamy soup. Though, instead of adding cream (which Gunst admits can make any soup feel like a heavy winter soup), add a dollop of yogurt, creme fraiche or sour cream. And as the weather continues to heat up, Gunst says, this kind of soup works equally well cold as it does hot.

Biddeford-based chef, soup cookbook author and photographer Derek Bissonette, who also wrote, and photographed, a book on soup, says the secret to making spring-inspired soups is the same as the secret to making wintertime soups. Know how to work with your ingredients to get the texture you want. “The trick is to know how long to cook each ingredient, so they go soft if you want a pureed soup or have a bite if you want that al dente texture,” said Bissonette.


Soup has long been a tool for green-minded cooks who waste not to want not. And since carrots, parsnips and beets are what I’ve got, I’ll gladly take the advice I can get to make them a little more spring-like in the pot.

CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, recipe developer and tester, and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Chicken broth with a bit of ginger tea added to it is poured over the root vegetables, noodles and chicken. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Springtime Carrot, Parsnip and Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup

Use a potato peeler, julienne peeler or spiralizer to shave the carrots and parsnips thin enough to cook slightly in the boiling broth they sit in for a hot minute before eaters slurp them up with the noodles.

Makes 4 bowls of soup

4 cups chicken broth
1 cup strong ginger tea
2 tablespoons miso
2 cups cooked noodles
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1 large carrot, shaved
1 small parsnip, shaved
1 cup chopped early spring green (like beet greens, spinach, chives, kale rabe)
Hot sauce for serving
Lemon wedges for serving

Combine broth, ginger tea and miso in a medium pot over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer while you prepare the soup bowls. Divide the noodles, chicken, carrots, parsnip and greens among the bowls. Pour the hot broth over the ingredients in the bowls. Serve immediately with hot sauce and lemon wedges.

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