Asparagus: enjoy the short but sweet season

Enjoy one of Michigan’s most bountiful crops with these simple tips for preparation and storage.

Michigan is third in the nation for asparagus production. Michigan produces up to 25 million pounds of asparagus annually. The season for asparagus lasts only six to seven weeks during early spring and summer. It is a very nutrient-dense food, meaning it is full of important vitamins and minerals. Asparagus is high in folic acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C and thiamin. In addition, it contains no fat, cholesterol and very little sodium.

When choosing fresh asparagus, look for straight, firm stalks with tight tips. Trim the stem ends about a quarter of an inch and wash in warm water several times. To store fresh asparagus, wash and pat dry thoroughly, wrap in plastic bag for up to three days and store in the refrigerator.

To freeze fresh asparagus, select young tender stalks. Wash completely and cut in to even lengths. Water blanch; exposing vegetable to boiling water or steam for a brief period of time to stop ripening. Immerse cut asparagus into boiling water; small spears for two minutes, medium spears for three minutes and large spears for four minutes. Immediately cool in ice water to prevent cooking. Drain, package and freeze.

Here are four ways to prepare asparagus:

  1. Trim and cut asparagus. Steam stalks first, adding the tips in for the final two to three minutes. Drain. Toss with melted butter or olive oil, freshly cracked pepper and fresh lemon.
  2. Mix the above steamed asparagus with angel hair past and add grated parmesan cheese.
  3. Steam asparagus and use in an omelet. Beat two eggs with two tablespoons hot water; add a dash of pepper and salt. Put egg mixture into heated non-stick pan, lay in cooked asparagus. Fold omelet in half to finish cooking until eggs are firm.
  4. Roast asparagus in oven. Trim and leave stalks whole. Toss with olive oil to lightly coat. Put in a 400˚F oven and turn several time for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Enjoy this versatile and delicious vegetable many ways during its short but sweet season!