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Nothing Says Spring Like this Veggie

Nothing Says Spring Like this Veggie

 

What veggie can be eaten raw, grilled, steamed or roasted, is fairly hardy and can grow wild among grass, and when eaten raw has a taste similar to fresh garden peas?  If you guessed asparagus, you’re right!  It is a vegetable that just seems to shout “spring,” right?

The NDSU Extension Family and Community Wellness agent in Cavalier county, Katie Henry, is a friend and colleague who tells the story of an asparagus “farm” that grew along a shelter belt that was just down the road from where she lived as a child.  As she tells it, people could go pick all of the asparagus they wanted and leave their money in a little cash box under the tree at the end by the road, on the honor system.  She considered it to be a fun adventure to go asparagus hunting among the grass when she was a youngster. 

Asparagus may be harvested from about mid-May until the third week in June, beginning in its third or fourth season of growth, not earlier.  The shoots are best cut when 6-10 inches tall.  If they get taller than that, they tend to be “woody.”  New shoots may be cut as often as every other day if temperatures and moisture conditions are favorable.

Asparagus should not be harvested any later than the third week of June so that the plant can rejuvenate itself for the next year.  Asparagus plants, once established, can produce for up to 20 years.

To harvest asparagus, push a knife into the soil close to the shoot, cutting it slightly below the soil surface, or simply snap the shoot off with your fingers.  As with all fresh fruits and vegetables, be sure to rinse with clear running water and a slight amount of friction before eating it or preparing it for a recipe.

NDSU Extension’s publication H61 “Asparagus and Rhubarb” has detailed information about growing and caring for asparagus.  The publication is available online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/lawns-gardens-trees/asparagus-and-rhubarb, or upon request to cindy.klapperich@ndsu.edu or by calling the NDSU Extension office in Sargent county at 701-724-3355.

If you don’t grow your own or have any luck out asparagus hunting in ditches, don’t despair; it is commonly available in grocery stores.  As with fresh-picked asparagus, be sure to thoroughly rinse the asparagus spears and cut off about one-half inch to one inch at the bottom of the spears to prepare them for eating.

For optimal results, store asparagus as a bundle after cutting off about one-half inch of the bottom of the stalk and place the bundle upright in a wide-mouth glass with one-half inch of water in it, then loosely cover with a plastic food/produce bag.

Asparagus provides nutrients such as fiber, potassium (an essential mineral), and vitamins A, C, E, K and folate, all for an extremely low calorie cost of just 3 calories per spear.  Asparagus is also rich in antioxidants, with the potential to reduce inflammation.  One health note to be aware of is that because of its vitamin K content, persons who use blood thinner medications should check with their health care professional before consuming asparagus in order to avoid a possible food-drug interaction.

The filling in “Impossible Brunch Pie” is a delicious combination of asparagus, ham or bacon, eggs, cottage cheese and sour cream, and it makes its own pie crust!  Contact me if you’d like the recipe, or find it online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/recipes/vegetables/impossible-brunch-pie.  

Sources:  NDSU Extension Publication H61, NDSU Extension Field to Fork Calendar, and Katie Henry, NDSU Extension FCW agent. 

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/asparagus-vegetables-green-food-4186334/ (downloaded 4/26/2021)

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