A Rite of Spring in the Produce Department
What do you look forward to when your local area turns to spring?
Melissa’s organic spring onions, mizuna greens and sorrel are just a few of my springtime favorites; another is fresh asparagus. I know what you’re probably thinking: organic asparagus is available nearly all year long these days—what makes the spring asparagus any different? Well, for one, it’s most likely California-grown; to some of us old-school produce geeks, that harkens back to a time when fresh asparagus was a harbinger of spring. (And this springtime association goes back a long way!).
A favorite vegetable of the ancient Greeks, asparagus was highly regarded for its cleansing and healing properties. Rich in the diuretic asparagine, asparagus is thought to benefit the kidneys - although too much can be an irritant. Modern alternative medicine cites asparagus as beneficial for vascular problems, arteriosclerosis and cleansing the arteries of cholesterol. The high folic acid content in asparagus is crucial to blood cell formation and growth and aids in the prevention of liver disease and congenital disabilities such as spina bifida.
Tall and slender, asparagus shoots up like a blade of grass. It’s actually a member of the lily family and not a grass at all, even though asparagus is often referred to as “grass” on the docks of the produce market. To keep your “grass” in peak condition, remove the band, clip the ends and store wrapped in a damp paper towel in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Why the damp paper towel? Asparagus keeps growing after harvest, drawing water away from the lower stalk. Without water, your stalks could get tough and fibrous. Too much moisture will cause rot, but just a little will keep it tender.
As always, it is best to use your fresh spears within a few days. Look for firm, fresh spears with closed, compact tips and uniform diameter— this will ensure that all spears will cook in approximately the same amount of time. At the store, give them a whiff— your asparagus should smell fresh and not funky. Any smell that is a little off means that the grass is getting old and should be left alone.
If it’s a cool spring night, I tend to roast my asparagus. If it’s warmer out, I lean towards throwing it on the grill. These are both yummy ways to enjoy organic asparagus, but sometimes I like to break my routines and try something new— like these two recipes I found in Melissa’s recipe collection.
Whatever makes you happy as spring arrives, be sure to take a graze in the grass with Melissa’s organic produce.