Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
Harvested: Late April 2013
Asparagus was used in recipes dating as far back as third-century AD, and many societies identified ways of preserving it for consumption during colder seasons.
Asparagus is a perennial and one of the earliest producing spring vegetables. It can be easily grown from the crowns or roots and can take up to 3 to 4 years before a mature plant is established for harvesting - but it can be harvested for years after planting once mature. A fully grown plant can resemble a fern with thin spears. It is unique in that it can tolerate broad temperature variations; it grows in the Imperial Valley of Southern California, where temperatures can reach 115° F, and it grows in Minnesota, where temperatures can plunge to -40° F.* In the northeast they are generally harvested from late March through June.
Aspargus spears should be tender and sweet. This is the best way to tell they are freshly harvested.
There are hundreds of varieties, but often asparagus has smooth stalks with compact crowns and can come in colors like white, green and purple. Spears can range in size based on the time they are harvested.
Only young asparagus shoots are eaten since once the buds of the plant start to open, the shoots quickly turn woody. Prep is easy: just trim off the bottoms of the spears. Then, enjoy them raw, fried, blanched, or simply roasted. Throwing them on the grill is also encouraged.
You can find Samascott Orchard’s Asparagus this week at Greene Grape Provisions in Brooklyn.