Crop Spot: Asparagus

During Michigan springtime, one of the first vegetables you’ll find available in your garden and at the farmers market is asparagus! This versatile veggie can be prepared in a variety of ways: raw, steamed, grilled, roasted, or sautéed, which makes it a great choice for an easy and healthy addition to any meal. Keep your eyes open for these green–or sometimes purple or white!–spears this month, and read on to learn more about asparagus and its benefits.

In the Garden

In Michigan, asparagus is planted in early spring, usually by mid-April depending on the weather each year. The crowns are planted 5-6 inches deep in the ground, 12-18 inches apart. Asparagus crops take a few years to hit their stride, but once an asparagus bed gets going, it will produce new spears every spring for up to twenty years! And, despite the fact that it can take a few years to see high yields of asparagus from a crop, after planting, it is relatively easy to grow. Weeds are not asparagus’ friend, however, since the delicate shoots struggle against competition. Especially early on, it’s important to keep your asparagus bed relatively weed-free! 

Once mature, asparagus can be harvested for 3-5 weeks in the spring. After that, spears can tend to get spindly and less tasty, and should be left to fully bloom. They’ll grow four to six feet high and feature light green foliage! During this time, keep the bed thoroughly watered and weeded, as the more energy the asparagus can store over the summer, the better the spring crop will be next year!

In Your Medicine Cabinet

Asparagus is a great source of folate, a B vitamin that assists the body in making red and white blood cells, converting carbohydrates into energy and producing DNA and RNA. Making sure that the body gets enough folate is especially important during pregnancy, infancy and adolescence, when the body is rapidly growing and changing. Asparagus also provides a good source of fiber; a cup of asparagus is 15% of your daily fiber needs! You’ll also find vitamins A, C, and K in these veggies.

In the Kitchen

The flexibility in ways to prepare asparagus makes it one of the easiest vegetables to consume, and allows it to be included in many different dishes.

Shave raw asparagus spears into a simple salad with parmesan and lemon dressing, or blanch it for just 60 seconds and add to a crisp spring salad.

Roast your asparagus in the oven until the tops just start to crisp and you can pierce the spears with a fork, then enjoy as a side dish or slice and toss into a pasta.

Saute asparagus in a skillet with butter and lots of minced garlic. Or, try it sauteed with olives and basil for a unique blend of herb-y freshness and brine from the olives. 

Place asparagus in foil and toss it on the grill with a bit of olive oil or butter and sea salt for an easy vegetable side to accompany whatever main dish you might be grilling.

How will you enjoy asparagus this spring? Share your favorite ways to enjoy this versatile vegetable with [email protected]!

Elizabeth Pearce is TLD’s Operations Assistant. She is based in southeast Michigan and can’t wait to find some purple asparagus at the farmers market this spring!