One of the most flavorful and unique vegetables available early in the farmers market season is asparagus.
Unlike most of the vegetables we eat in Minnesota, asparagus is a perennial plant that, once planted, returns every year for up to 20 years. It takes three years for the plants to mature and produce a fruitful crop after being seeded, however.
Asparagus season comes around for a few short weeks every spring. Enjoy this delicious vegetable while it lasts!
The fresh flavor of asparagus purchased at the farmers market is at its best when prepared simply. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Raw asparagus is a delicious, nutritious treat, full of vitamin K, vitamin B and folate.
Cut large spears down into snack-able sticks or shave them with a vegetable peeler into “noodles.” Try them dipped or drizzled in your favorite salad dressing.
Shaved raw asparagus with parmesan dressing
Adapted from Food and Wine
2 lbs fresh asparagus (thick stems work best with this recipe)
1 cup grated or shaved parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. water
¼ cup olive oil
Shave asparagus into long, thin strips using a vegetable peeler. Whisk together parmesan, lemon juice, water and olive oil in a bowl. Combine asparagus and dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Grilled asparagus is perfect for spring barbeques.
Thread the asparagus onto two skewers crosswise or wrap in tinfoil and grill until tender — about 10–15 minutes depending on the heat of the grill and your preferred texture. Dress with olive oil and salt, or a squeeze of lemon.
Drizzle spears with olive oil and roast at 350° F for about 10–15 minutes. Serve with butter.
For an elegant appetizer, wrap roasted and cooled asparagus in prosciutto and serve on a platter.
One of the simplest ways to prepare asparagus is in a sauté.
Heat oil or butter over medium heat and toss in 1 inch pieces of asparagus. Throw in some garlic and you’ve got a tasty side dish. For something a little fancier, try this fantastic sauté that won Food 52’s asparagus recipe contest in 2010.
Absurdly addictive asparagus
Adapted from Food 52
4 oz. bacon, diced
1 Tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, cut on the bias into 1 inch pieces
1 ¼ cups of thinly sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp. orange zest
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
1-2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
Sauté bacon in a large pan over medium heat until crispy. Add butter, asparagus pieces and leeks to the pan and sauté for 3–4 minutes. Add garlic, lemon and orange zests, pine nuts and parsley to the pan and sauté for one additional minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
At the Fulton Farmers Market, asparagus is available from Ger Yang and Peter’s Pumpkins & Carmen’s Corn. At the Kingfield Farmers Market, purchase asparagus from Peter and Carmen, Davidson’s Farm and Yang’s Fresh Produce.
Rebecca Lee is the market manager of Neighborhood Roots. She has worked for the markets since 2014.