When asparagus first started showing up at Greenmarkets this Spring, I breathed a sigh of relief. As much as I’ve been enjoying root vegetables, pears, and apples, it’s time for a change! The recent hot spell of nearly 90 degree weather only served to increase my craving for fresh greens and produce.
Now, piles of asparagus spears draw eager market goers each day – the perfect opportunity for another What is Fresh Product Profile!
Asparagus is a perennial, (nearly) leafless member of the lily family. We eat the young shoots of the asparagus plant. There are over 300 species of asparagus; some common varieties are ‘Mary Washington’, ‘Brock Imperial’, and ‘Jersey Giant’.
A deep, sweet flavor; tender on the inside with a slight crunch when you bite into a spear.
Roasting asparagus in olive oil or pairing spears with cheese or cured meats can enhance their ‘green’, earthy flavor.
In the Kitchen:
Asparagus is traditionally eaten either boiled or steamed. When preparing asparagus, bend the stalks at their base and break them where they naturally snap. Make sure to wash the spears under water to remove any sand residue.
For the best flavor and texture, store asparagus in the refrigerator for no more than two days.
Asparagus is found at the market starting in mid-Spring and ending in early Summer.
Asparagus plants are either started about a month before the last expected frost, or grown from crowns (the one year old bases and roots). They are usually planted in a trench, allowing space for the roots to spread. Asparagus is often planted with tomatoes, as each repel common pests.
It takes up to 3 years for crowns to develop enough to begin producing shoots, but once this happens, the plant can produce for up to 20 years!