Did you know that May is National Asparagus month? If you are anything like me, you can’t wait for the first asparagus spears to start nudging their way through the soil. It is one of the first Spring vegetables to be harvested and a kick-off to the growing season in Northern Michigan.
To celebrate the kick-off of the season, the Village of Empire welcomes the first of the asparagus harvest with a weekend-long festival. This year the 15th Annual Empire Asparagus Festival will take place May 18th-20th.
Stop by Friday for an evening of dancing, a fish boil, and pig roast. Then, Saturday will commence with a 5k scenic run alongside the Lake Michigan shoreline that is sure to kick yer Ass-paragus! Afterwards, you’ll want to head to the Empire Township Hall to taste a variety of asparagus prepared dishes for the recipe cook-off. The competition is open to the public and welcoming to anyone that loves asparagus.
Interested in submitting a dish? The entries must include asparagus and be large enough portions to provide 100 bite size tastings. Entries must arrive between 11:00 and 11:40 AM, please contact Jody at [email protected] for more information. The fun begins at noon!
The festival continues with a variety of asparagus eats and drinks from local restaurants, breweries and wineries, and local music to eat and dance the night away. The event is a Certified Local Food Event which means all participating vendors are preparing an asparagus dish with at least 20% local ingredients. The best part — all of the asparagus is sourced directly from Norconk Farm, where owners Harry and Barbara have been growing asparagus since 1978. Every year the two hustle to provide fresh asparagus for the festival and other local restaurants in the region.
From asparagus brats, beer-battered asparagus, asparagus pizza, and more, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Stop by between noon and 10pm to try asparagus inspired eats from Scalawags Fish & Chips, Art’s Tavern Glen Arbor, Rockwich, Pleva’s Meats, and more. Looking for Asparagus Beer to compliment your favorite asparagus dish? Right Brain Brewery has you covered with their “Spear Beer,” a pale ale that will satisfy all your asparagus cravings.
If you enjoy the asparagus at the festival, you can’t leave without stopping at Noronk Farm in Honor for some of the fresh stalks to take home. The roadside stand is always self-serve and has 1 pound bundles for $2.50, while it lasts of course!
A full schedule of events for the 15th Annual Empire Asparagus Festival can be found here. This event is a Certified Zero Waste Event thanks to Bay Area Recycling for Charities and they need your help to make it a great event, sign up to volunteer!
Bailey Samp is the Local Food Coordinator for NW Michigan and co-owns Lakeview Hill Farm with her partner John in Leelanau County. Her favorite way to enjoy asparagus is grilled with a little oil, garlic, sea salt, and lemon. Contact her at [email protected] to find local asparagus near you.