Fresh, Fabulous Food: Asparagus


In the months of May and June, shoots of asparagus spears begin to peek through sandy and salty soil as asparagus season begins in Ontario.

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.

Michelle Creighton and her asparagus crop photo: Barbora Simek

Selection

“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.”

Selection Tips

  • 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

Storing Method

  1. Wrap asparagus in a damp towel, place it in a ziplock bag and store it in the crisper of your fridge
  2. Place up-right in 1cm of water and store in the fridge

Preparation

  • 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

Enjoy

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2 Comments

Filed under Daily Feature, Nutrition

2 responses to “Fresh, Fabulous Food: Asparagus

  1. I love asparagus. That recipe sounds good, but I also enjoy it roasted with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. And a shaving of parm cheese don’t hurt, either! 🙂

  2. I enjoy them blanched in salted water till the go bright green and then shocked in ice cold water bath to stop the cooking process. Toss them in a pan with a table spoon of olive oil, salt pepper, and lemon zest. Take off the heat and sqeexe the juice of a lemon opn them; then serve!

    Deeeeelish!

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