It takes three years for the asparagus root, planted 8 inches below the ground, to be mature enough for cultivation. After this period, farmers begin cutting the spears in mid-to-late April until July.
“Asparagus is all underground,” says Ontario farmer Michelle Creighton. “When little pieces come up they can grow up to six inches if there has been rain or if it is sunny and warm.”
When the spears are ready, farmers follow the shoot and cut each piece individually below the soil on an angle. “You can’t just slash all the way across, because there are new growths below the soil and you never know where they are growing,” says Creighton.
After the season ends, farmers like Creighton will allow the shoots to grow into a tall flowering perennial that can grow up to six feet tall and produces bell-shaped flowers.
“I believe people just have preferences,” says Creighton. “Because right now, when this Ontario asparagus is fresh, it’s all good, right down to the end of the stock. Sometimes in the winter when it comes from who-knows-where, you have to lose half the stock because it is woody. But local asparagus won’t be woody, it’s all tender right now.”
- Try to pick a bunch where the spears are all the same diameter, so that they will have the same cooking time
- Look to see that the tips are tight, tips showing signs of flowering can indicate the asparagus is old
- Look for bright and firm spears
- Wrap asparagus in a damp towel, place it in a ziplock bag and store it in the crisper of your fridge
- Place up-right in 1cm of water and store in the fridge
- Wash spears to remove any sand that may have become caught in the tips
- During winter months remove woody ends with a knife, find the woody ends by holding the each end of the spear in a your hands and slowly bend, the spear will break where the woody-ness begins
- Some prefer to peel the skin off the bottom of spears
Michelle’s Favorite Asparagus Recipe:
Asparagus on Toast
Steam asparagus to your liking
Place the spears on open-faced toast
Sprinkle with shavings of Asiago cheese
Add a squeeze of lemon juice and pepper