Today marks the end of asparagus season at Wicklow Way farms. I am mourning the end, because I really enjoyed spending every other morning in the asparagus patch, hunting for the little spears. Asparagus grows extremely quickly, estimating 2 inches a day. You can basically watch it grow. It is an interesting perennial, which takes a few years to mature in order to allow the roots to gain strength and spread underground. The rule of thumb is; harvest length in weeks relative to the age of the asparagus in years. Wicklow Way’s asparagus is a young 4 years old, and so we only snapped off the spears for a short 4 weeks. In that amount of time, we harvested an estimated 30-35kgs of the unique tasting vegetable. Fresh picked asparagus spears are far tastier than store bought ones. Most people are unaware that asparagus is quite delicious when eaten raw. The flavour is mild, crisp, juicy and sweet. What I enjoy most about asparagus is the colours it produces, lime green, dark green and purple. If I could make a wall colour scheme it would be the vibrant colours of asparagus.
Young shoots of asparagus are rich in B vitamins, vitamin c, calcium and iron. Being one of the first vegetables to mark the beginning of spring, it is a beautiful boost of freshness to assist in a healthy recovery from the winter blues. Lucky for Canadians, asparagus thrives in climates that endure winter or dry climates. This crop enjoys mostly sunny areas with light soil that warms up quickly, and drain well; wet soil will cause the roots to rot. This low maintenance plant requires very little watering after its fleshy roots are established, proceeding its second year of planting. The crowns of asparagus are best purchased as one year olds, as they get a head start on seeds, and won’t suffer transplant shock like 2 year old crowns. A little fertilizer, such as compost tea, manure, chicken poo pellets or moss for heavy soils, is all the plant needs to survive and grow.
At Wicklow Way, we bunch our asparagus according to size, to please the customers. Some people like the teeny tiny spears with their delicate appearance, most people like the medium spears; best for a quick roast on the BBQ, and I prefer the jumbo or fat spears with the most H20 content. It is often a misconception that the fat spears are woody, but that is only true in the older stalks, when the bud starts to open, and ‘ferning out’. This can be avoided by eating local fresh asparagus, which has been picked frequently and within the last two days.
Preparing asparagus for a meal has endless possibilities, and Elaina; Wickow Way’s own in house chef, has provided us with plenty of delicious eats! My favourite appetizing asparagus was in a cold potato salad with pine nuts, red pepper, kale, onions, oregano and oil, salt and pepper. Other options for asparagus are in a cheese fondue, blanched in a green salad, soup with garlic chives, poached with eggs and spinach or simply steamed with butter. Caution is to be used when preparing asparagus for a meal. It is to be cooked, steamed, blanched or BBQed only 2 minutes. Some people over cook their asparagus, leaving it soggy, limp and mushy. It’s a terrible way to appreciate asparagus.
So hurry out to our closet farmer’s market and get some asparagus spears before the season is over, and we have to say goodbye for another year. The vegetable is precious and delicious, even if it makes your urine smell funny!