I’m starting a new series called Michigan A-Z, inspired by the Flowers A-Z posts over at Design*Sponge. This series will highlight a particular aspect about Michigan. It might be something I love about Michigan, something I’ve recently learned about Michigan or just a gathering of unique and interesting facts about our great state. Many of the posts will focus on Michigan’s agriculture as “A wide variety of commodity crops, fruits, and vegetables are grown in Michigan, making it second only to California among U.S. states in the diversity of its agriculture,” according to Wikipedia, which I find very impressive. So up first is A for Asparagus!
- Asparagus was originally part of the lily family with garlic and onions, but it now has its own family, Asparagaceae.
- By the end of the season, an asparagus spear can grow 10″ in a 24-hour period and may need to be harvested every day.
- A planting of asparagus is picked an average of twenty times during the season, then the plants are left so the roots can be refortified with nutrients.
- Asparagus is a nutrient-dense food which in high in Folic Acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin.
Here are a few facts from the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board regarding Michigan’s asparagus crop:
- Did you know that Michigan ranks third in the nation for Asparagus production producing up to 25 million pounds annually?
- Oceana County, around Hart and Shelby, is the area with the greatest volume of production but there is also substantial production in SW Michigan between South Haven and Benton Harbor.
- Michigan growers harvest approximately 11,000 acres of asparagus annually.
- The average yield for Michigan asparagus growers is 2,100 pounds per acre but plantings of newer hybrid varieties have been harvested at up to 3,000 pounds per acre.
- 25% of the harvest is sold as fresh asparagus in the vegetable section of the grocery store or at a roadside market.
- Of the 75% of the crop sold to processors, 38% will be frozen as cuts & tips or spears and 62% will be canned as cuts & tips or spears.
Every May, Empire, MI, hosts their Asparagus Festival. The festival includes a poetry contest, 5K run and walk, asparagus cook-off, wine and beer pairings, and kids activities.
The National Asparagus Festival is held every year during the second weekend of June in Oceana County, MI. The festival includes an arts and crafts show, 5K run and walk, a motorcycle event, kids activities, and the crowning of Miss Asparagus.
There are a lot of asparagus recipes out there, but we tend to mostly roast the spears in the toaster oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until tender. The shaved asparagus pizza from Annie’s Eats is very good too. We tried blanching and freezing a couple of pounds of asparagus this year, but it didn’t work so well. They got fairly mushy once we thawed and roasted them. I’m planning on making asparagus soup this winter with them along with all the trimmings that we’ve frozen that were cut from the ends of the spears we roasted.
Have any asparagus recipes to share?