Asparagus For the Rest of Us

Even though it’s available all year long, glorious green asparagus can easily be considered the star of the spring season­ that is when it’s the best! You can purchase it inexpensively and find it at your local farmers markets.

Asparagus has about 20 calories per serving (12 spears) and is loaded with potassium as well as vitamins C and A.

When Choosing Your Asparagus:
• Look for green stalks that are 4 to 6 inches long.
• Stalks should also be at least 1⁄2 inch thick with tight, closed tips. • Do not buy withered, flat, white, split or woody stalks.

When Storing Asparagus
• Once picked, asparagus loses quality quickly.
• Plan to use within one to three days after purchase. • Put a moist paper towel at the base of the bunch.
• Place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.

Asparagus 2Fun and Easy Ways to Enjoy Asparagus
To Blanch or Boil: Use a pan in which you can lay the asparagus flat (such as a skillet). Bring about an inch of water, just enough to cover asparagus, to a rapid boil. Add the washed and trimmed asparagus. Quickly bring to a second boil and cook, uncovered, for 2 to 5 minutes depending upon whether you are blanching or cooking.

To Steam: Although there are special asparagus steamers on the market, you can use a standard steaming basket by simply cutting the washed and trimmed spears into pieces that fit into your basket. In a pan that fits your basket, bring an inch of water to a boil. Add asparagus, and cover. Steam 5 to 8 minutes.

To Microwave: Place a pound of washed, trimmed asparagus in a covered dish with 1⁄4 cup water. Cook at highest power 4 to 8 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking. If desired tenderness has not been reached, let stand a few minutes.

To Stir­Fry: Angle­cut the washed and trimmed spears into 1­to 2­inch pieces. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil for each dozen spears. Stir­fry in hot oil 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. If desired tenderness has not been reached, cover and let stand for a minute.

Trivia: What flower is related to asparagus? (see answer below)

Fun Facts
• There are 10­12 spears in a typical 1 pound bunch.
• White asparagus is green asparagus that has not been exposed to the sun. • Asparagus can continue to grow after it’s been cut.

Roasted Asparagus Recipe
Steamed, boiled, sautéed, roasted, grilled… asparagus takes on different qualities however you cook it. This recipe is one of the most ridiculously simple vegetable dishes in existence! First of all, preparing the asparagus is as easy as pie. Second of all, it’s a last­minute dish that can go from fridge to platter in around twelve minutes.

1 bunch Asparagus
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil Salt and pepper (to taste)

Preparation Instructions:
1.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.) After you wash the asparagus thoroughly, stack a bunch together and cut off an inch or so from the tough/thick bottom.

3.) Spread out the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Pat it as dry as you can.

4.) Begin by generously drizzling olive oil all over the asparagus, and then sprinkle the asparagus generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

5.) Roast the asparagus for about ten minutes.


Growing Asparagus
Asparagus is available at the local farmers markets, and our featured asparagus grower this month is Peggy Gray with Boyce Gray, LLC from Alvaton. Her asparagus can be found at Community Farmers Market and at local restaurants while in season.

Asparagus is a high value perennial crop that is well suited for Kentucky. Per capita consumption has increased by 40% since 1998 to 1.4 pounds per person, and it is a crop that has excellent potential for increased production in Kentucky. Asparagus is a crop that can be initially expensive to get established, but a well­maintained planting can produce for 15 years or more! Land and soil preparation is important to a long lived perennial crop such as asparagus, good drainage and deep soils are important since the roots can reach up to 10 feet deep.

Asparagus is best started by purchasing disease free crowns of your desired cultivar. If you are interested in raising asparagus, the UK Cooperative Extension Service has more information on both home asparagus beds and commercial production available at the Warren County Office.

Although it is too late this year to plant and get a harvest (it is recommended to wait one year after planting before harvest to ensure nutrition builds in the crown for future yields), it’s a great time to plan and get a jump start for next year. Until then, visit your local farmers markets to enjoy this delicious specialty crop!

Trivia Answer: Asparagus was once classified in the lily family (along with onions and garlic).

Originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of SOKY Happenings Magazine.

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