Nothing says spring like Michigan Asparagus

Michigan-grown Asparagus has a short season that Michiganders look forward to each year.

Photo credit: Mariel Borgman, MSU

Photo credit: Mariel Borgman, MSU

One of the very first outdoor locally-grown vegetable crops available in the spring is Michigan asparagus. This high-performing vegetable takes full advantage of its short growing season by growing up to ten inches in a single day. Because of this quick growth, a mature asparagus plant can produce 25 or more spears over the seven-week harvest season. The asparagus season in begins in southwest Michigan in late April/early May and runs through late June in the northern regions of the state.

Fresh asparagus purchased in Michigan outside of the Michigan production season will have not been grown by Michigan farmers and instead will have come from California, Mexico or as far away as Peru. There are concerns about the environmental impacts of this non-local supply chain, including water usage and carbon emissions, particularly from air freight.

Another consideration for choosing Michigan asparagus is how fresh it is. Asparagus harvested from other locations could be two to three weeks old by the time it gets to the store. By that time, the vitamin and nutritional content of the vegetable has been reduced. Frozen, Michigan-grown asparagus is more nutritious than fresh Peruvian, because it is preserved at peak freshness.

Unlike many of the vegetable grown in Michigan, which are annuals, asparagus plants are perennials. If you would like to try growing your own asparagus plants, you may find the article Growing Asparagus at Home to be helpful.

Over 40 percent of Michigan-grown asparagus is sold in fresh form at farmers markets, roadside stands, restaurants and grocery stores. While many people are used to eating cooked asparagus, it is delicious eaten raw with a nice dip. This article from Michigan State University Extension offers tips on using asparagus.

The other roughly 60 percent is frozen, canned, or pickled. If you would like to learn how to preserve your own asparagus to enjoy year round, take a look at the Michigan Fresh Asparagus factsheet.

For a new twist on asparagus, try using it in guacamole!

Asparagus guacamole

1bunch Michigan Asparagus

1 tsp olive oil

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp salt

Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 min

Let cool

Chop and put in food processor with 1 ¾ TBSP lime juice

¼ c chopped fresh cilantro

2 chopped green onions

2 cubed avocados

Blend and enjoy

MSU Extension’s Community Food Systems work team supports the development of local food systems in Michigan. For more information connect with your local community food systems educator by visiting http://msue.anr.msu.edu/or calling 1-888-678-3464. The Michigan Fresh program has tips on growing, handling and preserving as well as healthful recipes to take advantage of the delicious Michigan-grown bounty from your back yard or your local farmer’s market.