Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vegetable Spotlight – Asparagus

I don’t know about you but I love to know where my food comes from and how it is grow.  Asparagus is a springtime gem and is something we look forward to eating our share of!  On a recent trip (ok, ok, it was 2 months ago and I am just now getting around to posting this) to the grocery store I noticed that the bunches of asparagus had nutrition labels on them.  We all know about nutrition labels but I had never seen a label on produce.  So, inspiration for this post (and hopefully a series of posts) was born!

A bunch of asparagus - via
Nutritional Information:
Asparagus is low in calories and very low in sodium.  It is also an excellent source of folic acid and is a fairly significant source of Vitamin C, Thiamin, and Vitamin B6. Asparagus contains no cholesterol and is an important source of potassium and many micronutrients.  Asparagus also contains antioxidants! For information about these nutrients please see the nutrition information fact sheet
Asparagus Nutrition Label - via
Harvest Season:
In California fresh asparagus is available from January – May (depending of course on the weather) and a small amount is also harvested in September and October.  Larger spears tend to be more plentiful early in the season while smaller spears tend to close the season.   

Production Areas:
In California asparagus is grown in the San Joaquin Delta, the central coast, the Southern California desert, and the central valley.  70-80 percent of the nation’s crop of asparagus comes from California with the remaining crop coming from Washington, Michigan, and Mid-Atlantic states. 

Growth and Harvest:
Asparagus is the stem of a perennial plant.  Perennial means that it comes back every year.  The root mass (it is called a crown) is planted and given the right temperature, nutrients, sunlight, and water the asparagus grows.  After 2 years (yes, two whole years!) the stems can be harvested for the first time.  The stem needs to be about nine inches long and it is cut about two inches below the soil. 
The asparagus is then placed in 1 pound bunches and rubbed banded then shipped for us all to enjoy! 
Meanwhile the plants keep growing and producing until the end of the season.  Plants can last up to 20 years – which means those first two years of patience pay off in the long run!
If you are looking to grow asparagus at home you can buy crowns that are two years old so you don’t have to wait. 

Cooking:
There are many ways to enjoy asparagus!  I always used to boil it in water and enjoy it with mayonnaise (some people use butter instead – a friend of mine adds garlic to her melted butter - YUM).  But, lately I have been putting it in a bag with a little olive oil and garlic salt, shaking it, and putting in the grill – SO GOOD!!  I prefer asparagus as a side dish because I like the distinct flavor and don’t want it to get masked by other flavors. 

Links:
If you want more information about asparagus please go to the following websites for more information.
California Asparagus Commission - lots of great information about asparagus.
Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board - more information about asparagus.
Meet a grower - a fun little information sheet about the largest grower of asparagus in California.
Ag in the Classroom asparagus fact sheet - I LOVE this organization and there fact sheet may be my favorite!  Lots of information about asparagus including history - very interesting.  There are also some activities for kids (or adults).
Asparagus planting at Dixon Farms - a quick post on how asparagus is planted at a farm in Canada - it is a short post but the root mass (the crown) is interesting to see.
How to grow and care for asparagus - some information for the at home garden on how to grow and care for asparagus. 
The Stockton Asparagus Festival - The lovely Durrer Family (from the blog Life on a Real California Dairy Farm) took a trip to the asparagus festival.  This post makes me feel like I was there - well, almost there!

Hope you enjoying the information about asparagus!  Please share with us your favorite way to cook (and eat) asparagus! 

3 comments:

Farmchick said...

I also love steamed asparagus with butter. I will have to add some garlic next time!

Leontien said...

Another great thing about asparagus, in the Netherlands we pretty much only have white asparagus. We harvest them before they go above ground and turn green. White asparagus are normaly a bit more sweeter and softer. they pretty much melt in your mouth.
I used to work at a asparagus farm and i loved it!

Thanks and great post!
Leontien
www.fourleafcloverdairy.blogspot.com

The Durrer Family said...

I had to giggle! As I was reading, I was going to suggest that you make a trip to the Stockton Asparagus Fest. next year, since it's just a hop, skip and a jump away... but you beat me to the punch! Trust me, you'll love it! Our favorite way of having asparagus is with sliced portabello mushrooms, red onion wedges tossed in olive oil, bals. vineg, crushed garlic and cracked pepper, thrown on the grill next to whatever is for dinner! Yum!!

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