Asparagus Season

Asparagus season is in full swing in the Churubusco area now. As one of the first green vegetables to appear it is a fresh treat after winter.

Asparagus is a spring perennial. It comes up year after year in the same spot from the roots. An asparagus patch is a bit of work to get established, but once it is established it will last for 20 years or more. A 15 foot long established asparagus path will provide plenty of asparagus for a family to eat fresh and even some to freeze or share.

To plant asparagus, order the roots or crowns from a garden supply company early in the spring. When it is time to plant dig a trench about 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide for your asparagus bed. The crowns are planted about 18 inches apart. For each crown make a little mound of soil and place the crown on top of it with the roots draped down the mound. The top of the crown should be about 6 inches below the top of the trench.

If you have the heavy clay soils typical of this area it is a good idea to mix some compost with your soil as you fill the trench. Fill the trench until the crowns are just covered. As they start to send up shoots keep adding soil until the trench is full. Asparagus is well-suited for growing in a raised bed too.

Keep the asparagus bed weed-free and be patient. The first year after planting, a full 12 months later, you can harvest your first few spears for a week or two, then let asparagus grow so it will develop strong roots. The second year you can pick for 3 or 4 weeks, and by the third year you can pick all you want.

When I start harvesting asparagus I think I’ll never get tired of eating it fresh, just steamed tender-crisp with a little salt and vinegar or butter. But after a few weeks of that, I start looking for other things to make with asparagus. This is one of my favorite recipes that makes an unusual appetizer or side dish.

Roasted Balsamic Garlic Asparagus

Will serve 8, can easily be adjusted to the amount of asparagus you have

2 lbs asparagus. If the asparagus is tough, trim and peel the thick ends. If it’s fresh from the garden you don’t need to peel it
½ teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, or to taste, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
While it is heating put the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle evenly with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over very low heat, add the olive oil and garlic slices and let it cook for 5 minutes. Don’t let the garlic burn.
Remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.
The oven should be hot by now, put the asparagus in the oven and roast for 8 minutes.
After 8 minutes take the asparagus out and put in a container that has an airtight lid. The asparagus may seem slightly underdone at this point, but it will continue to cook in the container as it cools.
Pour the butter mixture over the asparagus, put the lid on and give it a good shake to distribute.
Refrigerate for 4 hours and then serve cold or at room temperature.

If you don’t have an asparagus patch, or even better, a neighbor with an asparagus patch, the Columbia City Farmer’s Market is now open on Saturday mornings starting at 8 am. There were several vendors selling asparagus and another spring treat, rhubarb, last Saturday.