Aspiring to Asparagus!

Greetings farm friends!  Spring is FINALLY here to stay (hooray!) along with a sneak peak from its friend, “summer”!  No complaints here though.  We are so thankful for the warmer days along with the abundance of continued overwintered veggies and the maturing hoop house plantings!

Our Asparagus has made itself known as well with many spears popping up through the mass of henbit, chickweed, and Bermuda grass.  The annual task of weeding and mulching the perennial bed of asparagus was made light work this past Monday with the many hands of the 16 Advanced Crop students armed and ready with scuffle hoes, rakes, forks, and hand tools.  Within 3 hours, the entire bed was cleared, mulched, and readied for a promised and plentiful harvest of a garden favorite! photo(35)

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Why do we aspire for asparagus?  Why is its first sighting so exciting??  The name “asparagus” comes from the Greek asparagus-growinglanguage meaning “sprout” or “shoot” and is a member of the lily family as are onions, garlic, leeks, turnips and gladioli.

Asparagus is a perennial plant that was originally cultivated more than 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region and was prized by the Greeks and Romans for its unique flavor, texture,  and alleged medicinal qualities in which they ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter.

Asparagus was brought to America by the early colonists after gaining popularity in France and England in the 16th Century.  Often called the “Food of Kings”, King Louis XIV of France had special greenhouses built in order to satisfy his appetite for asparagus year-round.

The graceful spears of the asparagus plant have always been a sign of elegance and in the past, asparagus was deemed a delicacy only the wealthy could afford. Roman emperors were so fond of asparagus, that they kept a special asparagus fleet for the purpose of fetching it.

Today, asparagus remains loved for its succulent tender shoots, unique herbaceous flavor, distinctive shape, and the abundant nutrition packed into every spear.  A single serving of asparagus provides the essential B group vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, biotin, and is a great source of folate and vitamin C (20/25% of our daily needs) along with bio-active compounds such as antioxidants rutin and beta-carotene. The medicinal uses of asparagus include the treatment for swelling, such as arthritis, rheumatism, and PMS-related water retention as well as many types of kidney problems (although too much asparagus can irritate the kidneys).

Asparagus should be used as soon as possible for the best taste and to retain its nutrient value. To store fresh asparagus, wrap the ends in a damp paper towel and store in a crisper drawer.  When preparing, snap off the fibrous bases by bending the stems until they break and rinse under cold water.

Asparagus can be enjoyed raw, roasted, steamed, and deliciously creamed.   My favorite is to simply brush it with olive oil, roast for 5 minutes, then serve it up with butter and toasted almonds…yum! Can’t wait till harvest tcooked asparagusime!

Aspiring for asparagus,

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