Asparagus!

Local spring vegetables, now.

When I see local asparagus at the farmers’ markets and stores, I know spring is giving way to summer, and my taste buds become eager for this tender member of the lily family. Did you know that Michigan ranks third in the nation for asparagus production? Our own Oceana County, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is known for its asparagus and is home to the National Asparagus Festival every year. This year, it will be held from June 7 through 9. There are many opportunities to try asparagus there, and activities for the entire family. A whole three days devoted to a little vegetable!

Michigan State University Extension knows that asparagus is a very nutritious vegetable that is high in folic acid. It’s a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, B6 and thiamin. Like most vegetables, it has no cholesterol or fat, and is low in sodium. The chart below from the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board gives the nutrient values contained in one 5.3 ounce serving.

Asparagus Nutrient Values:

 

% of USRDA

Serving size

5.3 ounces

Protein

6%

Calories

20

Vitamin A

8%

Protein

3 grams

Vitamin C

20%

Carbohydrate

3 grams

Thiamin

15%

Fat

0 grams

Riboflavin

6%

Cholesterol

0 milligrams

Niacin

6%

Sodium

5 milligrams

Calcium

2%

Potassium

400 milligrams

Iron

*

Dietary Fiber

3 grams

Vitamin E

*

 

 

Vitamin B6

10%

 

 

Folacin

60%

 

 

Magnesium

4%

 

 

Copper

4%

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable. You can eat it raw, with dips or my favorite – steamed. In researching this article, I found recipes for salads, casseroles, hors d’oeuvres, and even bread! Here is one from the National Asparagus Festival’s 1974 bake-off grand prize winner that I’d like to share:

Sukiyaki, Michigan Style

By Mrs. Ronnie Pochyla

1 lb. sirloin, cut ½ inch thick, thinly sliced                                               

2 T. sherry

2 T. shortening                                                                                 

1 T. soy sauce

1 c. celery, diagonally sliced                                                                        

1 T. corn starch

1 c. onion, thinly sliced                                                                  

1 tsp. salt

1 clove garlic, finely minced                                                                        

½ tsp. sugar

1 c. sliced mushrooms                                                                   

¼ tsp. ground ginger

11 oz. cut asparagus, cooked and drained                                            

1 beef bouillon cube, optional

½ c. water

Heat shortening in a heavy pan and cook meat until almost done. Add celery, onion and garlic and stir over high heat for one minute. Add the mushrooms and cook another minute, then add cooked asparagus. Heat one minute. Blend remaining ingredients together and add to the meat mixture. Cook and stir until sauce thickens. Serve plain or with hot cooked rice. Prepares four servings.

There are many ways to use asparagus. You just need to try it! I’ve had many people tell me they don’t like asparagus, and then I’ll fix it in something or they’ll try it in one of my relish trays. Seems to be they just thought they didn’t like it! Give it a try, you’ll be glad you did. If you would like more information on asparagus or other local produce, contact your local MSU Extension office.