The fleshy green spears of aspara­gus are all at once suc­cu­lent and ten­der. They have long been con­sid­ered a true sea­sonal del­i­cacy.

This highly prized veg­etable arrives with the com­ing of spring. When the shoots finally break through the soil and reach their peak har­vest length, we are ready to enjoy locally grown aspara­gus.

In Cal­i­for­nia, the first crops may be picked as early as Feb­ru­ary. The sea­son gen­er­ally is con­sid­ered to run from April through May. Like most things in agri­cul­ture, Mother Nature is in charge.

In the Mid­west and East, the sea­son may extend through June or July.

Under ideal grow­ing con­di­tions, an aspara­gus spear can shoot up to be eight to ten inches tall in a 24-​hour period. Each crown will send spears up for about six to seven weeks dur­ing the spring and early summer.

Out­door tem­per­a­ture deter­mines how much time is required between each har­vest. Early in the sea­son, there may be four to five days between pick­ings and as the days and nights get warmer, a par­tic­u­lar field may have to be picked every 24 hours.

This is a noto­ri­ously labor-​intensive crop. Once har­vested, it must be sorted, washed, trimmed and packed at a pack­ing facil­ity. Farm­ers com­monly work large crews 14 hours a day, seven days a week in peak of sea­son.

Aspara­gus is one of the few veg­eta­bles that is grown as a peren­nial. The plants have about a 1015 year life.

The stalks shoot up from the crown of the plant and grow into fern-​like leaves when allowed to develop. It takes three years from sow­ing of the seed to the har­vest of the first stalks.

Cal­i­for­nia pro­duc­tion has declined 15 to 20 per­cent annu­ally since 2000. Less acreage is planted as the cost to com­pete with coun­tries with cheaper labor is often unten­able.

Aspara­gus is a nutrient-​dense food which is high in Folic Acid and is a good source of potas­sium, fiber, vit­a­min B6, vit­a­mins A and C, and thi­amin.

A taste of spring relies on aspara­gus on the plate. The wel­come of new spring veg­eta­bles leads to inter­est­ing menus and a broader selec­tion of ideas for meal plan­ning at home.

Pale and green (or pur­ple or white), count on a del­i­cate, crisp, grassy, sweet and ten­der offer­ing.

Honor the very light­ness and life that it rep­re­sents. For best results, do not over­cook.

Sim­ply sauté or steam briefly, roast them in the oven, or blanch lightly. Ten­der spears can even be eaten raw and eti­quette allows for eat­ing aspara­gus with your hands. This is “fin­ger food” at it’s best!
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