Asparagus – Preserve now and enjoy all year!
Enjoy the bounty of locally grown asparagus all year round by preserving it now.
Over the past few weeks, local asparagus has been plentiful at local farm markets. Asparagus is one of the earliest crops available for harvest in Michigan. Michigan ranks third in asparagus production across the nation with an average yield of 25 million pounds each year. Asparagus is a member of the lily family and grows from a crown that is planted about one foot deep in a sandy soil.
Asparagus is a low-fat and low-calorie vegetable. According to the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, asparagus is a good source of potassium and folic acid. It is also a significant source of vitamin B6 and thiamin.
How to select and store asparagus:
Look for bright green stems with closed, compact firm tips. Place asparagus in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible for best quality. There is no difference between thin and thick stems as an indication of tenderness. Select either thin or thick stalks for preparing to ensure uniform cooking.
How to prepare asparagus:
Michigan State University Extension recommends washing asparagus using cool water prior to consumption. Trim the asparagus about an inch away from the base or snap the ends off to remove the woody section. The tender portion will separate from the tougher section naturally when snapping.
Asparagus is a simple vegetable to prepare but the key is to cook it to a crisp tender. Asparagus has a more desirable texture and taste when not cooked to softness. Asparagus is a versatile vegetable, as it can be eaten raw, steamed, roasted, stir-fried or grilled. It can be sautéed with olive oil, pepper and dried thyme.
How to preserve asparagus:
The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends freezing asparagus for optimal results or pressure canning due to the low acidity. When freezing, it is important to select young, tender stalks. Wash thoroughly and discard any tough portions of stalks. Blanch in boiling water for three minutes for medium spears. Cook promptly in cold water and drain. Pack in freezer containers with no headspace; seal, label and freeze. If you are interested in canning the asparagus, pressure canning is the only safe method. For more information on how to safely preserve asparagus, consult the Michigan Fresh program.
Taking advantage of locally grown produce during their time of peak freshness is a great way to enjoy low-cost fruit and vegetables, as well as preserve them for later. Get a jump start on your food preservation plans by freezing delicious asparagus that can be enjoyed throughout the entire year.