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Asparagus, otherwise known as the folk name Sparrow Grass (1). This deep pistachio green stalk is a perennial flowering plant species in the genus asparagus (2). “Crowns” are planted in winter, and the first shoots appear in spring ready to harvest and enjoy (1).
Tender at the tip and slightly woody thick at the end (2). The younger asparagus shoots are most commonly eaten. Once the buds start to open, the shoots turn woody. Stem thickness is an indicator of how old the plant is. The thicker the stem, the older the plant (1).
Asparagus originated in maritime habitats with temperate climates. It thrives in sandy soils too saline for normal weeds to grow. Traditionally a little salt was used to suppress weeds in beds intended for planting (1).
Throughout the world China is the largest producer, followed by Peru and Mexico. US production is mainly concentrated in the states California, Michigan, and Washington (1).
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Provides plenty of Nutrition
Asparagus has more health benefits than most people may think. The list of positive attributes is long. Eating this spring vegetable provides a good quantity of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It’s also a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic Acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, selenium, and chromium (1).
The trace mineral chromium regulates the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the blood stream into the cells (1).
Asparagus contains more glutathione than any other fruit or vegetable. This antioxidant plays an important role in the prevention of certain cancers and diseases, regulating DNA and protein synthesis (2).
Focus on the culinary
Asparagus has a mild grassy and sweet flavor. All spears should be snapped at their natural breaking or bending point. Discard the lower parts as they are too fibrous and woody to eat (2). Another method is peeling the skin at the base removing the tough layer. Peeled asparagus poaches fairly quickly (1). The bottom portion of asparagus often contains sand and soil. Thorough cleaning is generally advised before cooking (1). We suggest a variety of cooking methods. It can be sauteed, steamed, boiled, baked and fried.
There is a vast array of items that asparagus pairs with. Try it with spring ingredients such as morel mushrooms, green garlic, wild ramps, fennel, leeks, young lettuces and citrus. Asparagus is delicious when added to yeasty breads, like sourdough and wheat, and grains such as arborio rice, quinoa and farro (2).
History Lesson; pass the asparagus
Asparagus has a long history. Native to most of Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia (2). It’s celebrated in ancient festivals. A recipe is given in one of the oldest surviving collections, Apicius’s third century BC “De re coquinaria,” Book III. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3,000 BC. They cultivated and ate it for numerous medicinal properties. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season, and dried the vegetable for use in winter (1).
Suggested storage method
The best way to enjoy it is while fresh. Asparagus has a shelf life of five to seven business days uncooked in the refrigerator. For longer storage there are other methods. It can be cooked or blanched and frozen for six to eight months (2). For even longer storage try pickling. Under the correct conditions it can last for years (1).
Coastal View Produce
Coastal View Produce has been growing asparagus for over thirty five years. They own and operate 170 acres in Gonzales, between Santa Lucia and Gabilan mountain ranges in the heart of Salinas Valley. The Mediterranean climate and fertile soil make it an ideal growing region. The weather is never too hot or too cold, staying around 65 to 75 degrees (3).
Farmer Brian Violini, who runs CVP with his brother, sums up their family’s farming history fairly succinctly (3).
“We’ve had this farm for three generations. My grandfather came over from Switzerland. He started with a dairy, then moved into farming. My dad and uncle ran the farm after him, and now it’s me and my brother. Farming, it’s all we know (3).”
Find out about the many organic farms we source from at our farm page.