As the first vegetable of spring, asparagus is ready to harvest weeks before most vegetables even begin to sprout. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, which means you plant it once and it will come back every year. An asparagus plant can continue to produce tasty shoots for up to 20 years. How is that for low maintenance vegetable gardening?
Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Nutrients include Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, zinc, dietary fiber, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and Vitamins A, C, E and K.
Asparagus plants do require some patience. It can take up to three years to produce an edible crop. However, all good things do come to those who wait. You will still have 17 years of edible asparagus as a reward for patience. I planted asparagus in my garden two years ago and I am getting ready to harvest my first edible crop in a few weeks. As someone who is new to gardening, I decided asparagus is my favorite crop. Anything that continues to grow for 20 years is A-Okay with me.
If you prefer to gather your asparagus at the local market, look for asparagus that is displayed upright in water. If you are not going to eat it right away, store asparagus in the refrigerator upright in a cup with about an inch of water covering the ends, or wrap the ends in a damp paper towel. You will find fresh asparagus in the markets as early as February, and it will be at its lowest price in April and May. Buying asparagus when it is in season at a good price and freezing it for later use is a great idea.
Trim the base end of asparagus before cooking. The best way to do this is to hold the stalk between your thumb and index finger and bend it until it snaps. This is a fun job to give your kids.
Asparagus can be grilled, steamed, boiled, stir-fried, sautéed, roasted, and pureed in soups, added to eggs, pasta, casseroles… the possibilities are endless with this amazing, nutrient packed first vegetable of spring!
(From the Fresh Baby So Easy Toddler Cookbook)
1 pound asparagus, cleaned and chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed (to save time use 1 cup uncooked frozen hash browns)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Over medium heat, put oil, onions, and garlic in a large soup pot. Sauté until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the asparagus, potato, and soup stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Puree the soup until smooth with a hand blender, food processor, or blender. Stir in the milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
Makes 8-10 toddler servings or 4-5 adult servings
-- Rose Straebel