Valley Bounty, May 18: Asparagus
Asparagus is justly heralded in the Pioneer Valley as the beginning of the summer growing—and eating!—season. In mid-May, fat bunches of asparagus show up near the cash register in small markets, or on tables set up at the end of farm driveways to serve passersby. Fresh picked, you don’t need to do much more to it than grill or steam it and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.
Asparagus was a major crop in the Pioneer Valley, produced for sale across the country and to Europe, from the 1930s until disease wiped out much of the crop in the 1970s. Read about this history, and current production, in this 2007 article from Saveur.
Find asparagus producers here, or look for it at farmstands, farmers’ markets, retailers, and tables-at-the-end-of-the-driveway.
One of CISA’s Local Hero Challenges for May is to cook up some local asparagus and share your favorite recipe. Our recipe collection is here; you’ll find pancakes to pickles featuring asparagus, and lots more besides. If you plan an asparagus-themed meal, you might want to top it off with a visit to Flayvors of Cook Farm for asparagus ice cream.
I’m a fan of cold leftover asparagus with a little oil and vinegar dressing for lunch. Or leftover asparagus with scrambled eggs and goat cheese. But if you can resist these temptations, it’s also easy to freeze your dinner leftovers. Better yet, buy a couple of extra bunches, cut into pieces, and dunk them into boiling water for just a couple of minutes. Scoop them out and drop into a sinkful of cold water, dry them, and put them in the freezer in sturdy ziplock bags or other containers. Frozen asparagus is good sautéed with garlic or in soups in the winter—but never as good as it is right now, so have some more tomorrow!