May 24, 2012
June 6, 2012

Every April, asparagus stalks shoot up from the soil to the delight of food lovers everywhere! 

Every year as winter fades and the soil warms, a miracle happens. The cool wet soil gives way to emerging asparagus spears. It’s one of the first crops available for home gardeners and market farmers alike. And anyone who has had the pleasure of eating it raw knows that fresh asparagus is heaven.

Asparagus is one of the few perennial vegetables. Michigan ranks third in the nation for asparagus production, and asparagus is one of the first crops to appear in the spring, according to the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. The state’s fresh asparagus season runs April through June.

This year, the weather has played an interesting trick on produce growers.  It has certainly been a crazy year. The warm weather in March caused the stalks to push out of the ground last month, which is unheard of. But the frost and cooler weather has helped regulate the growth somewhat.

There has already been a limited harvest from growers in the southern part of Michigan and that some of the crop was lost to frost. But to date it looks like we are going to have a reasonably good crop.

Michigan’s average 22 million pounds of asparagus may be completely harvested by early June instead of later in the month. The season will be shortened, but it will be good.

And good for you too. As long as asparagus isn’t drenched in Hollandaise sauce or butter, it’s a fine low-calorie food. The spears are great eaten raw, but most people want their asparagus cooked. That’s fine, but take care not to boil the nutrients and flavor out of this seasonal culinary treat, which happens to be a good source for vitamin A, potassium and folic acid, as well as traces of copper, zinc and vitamin B.

An easy way to use asparagus is to steam the spears for about six to eight minutes and serve with a little sea salt and good olive oil. It’s a simple but memorable dish. Asparagus is also lovely when wrapped with prosciutto or bacon. Chop roasted asparagus tips into an omelet with melted fontina or goat cheese and lunch will have to be pretty spectacular to follow that morning meal.

Although green asparagus is the norm, purple varieties are worth a try, too. White asparagus is achieved by growing the vegetable without sunlight, which prevents the plant from producing chlorophyll. The white variety is a delicacy that some find less bitter than ordinary asparagus. It’s a stunner when plated and can be mixed with green spears for an interesting look.

Source:  detroitnews_com. 4.19.12

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