Monday, May 24th, is National Asparagus Day
We love this spring staple at the Co-op and hope you find something celebratory about asparagus too!
A love affair for the ages
5,000 years ago, Egyptians used asparagus in rituals as offerings, and as food and medicine. Archeologists found asparagus, along with fig and melon, residue on ancient dinnerware possibly belonging to Queen Nefertiti. 3,000 years ago, Caesar Augustus created the “asparagus fleet,” a flotilla of his fastest ships to find the vegetable and bring it to the alps where it could be frozen for later use. A recipe for cooking asparagus from this time appears in one of the oldest surviving cookbooks. 600 years ago, asparagus’s popularity spread to the nobility of France, Germany, and England. French king Louis XIV supped on spears the size of swan’s feathers. 300 years ago, asparagus became widely available to most people and had made its way to North America via colonialism.
Today, asparagus is grown and eaten all over the world. Top producers include China, Peru, Mexico, Germany, and Thailand. It may be native to Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, but the crop does well in many parts of the U.S. We prefer local asparagus, which is available at the Co-op throughout the season. Asparagus contains more glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, than any other vegetable! The tender, green stalks pair well with olive oil, aged cheese, bacon, sausage, lamb, prosciutto, cream, eggs, butter, shallots, fresh herbs, yeasty breads, like sourdough and wheat, and grains such as Arborio rice, quinoa and farro.
California is one of the top producers of asparagus in the United States and it takes time and care to harvest! Each spear is harvested by hand. Farmworkers clear out 9 inches of soil around each stalk to reach the base before each spear is snipped. We’re grateful to our farmers and farmworkers for taking the care to bring us this spring specialty!
Storing asparagus: asparagus should be trimmed approximately ½ inch from the bottom and then stored upright in a glass or bowl filled with enough water to cover stems, as you would do with flowers in a vase. Keep refrigerated.
You can find a Kids at the Co-op recipe and coloring page here!