And, here are a few tips to make sure your asparagus are local, fresh, and delicious.
Next time you step foot into Meijer, your neighborhood grocery, or a farmers market, meander into the vegetable section and gaze toward the greens. If you see asparagus, check the tags: They may be locally grown and as fresh as can be.
Michigan asparagus season begins in early to mid-May and runs through the end of June. The state is the biggest producer of asparagus in the US every year. Over 100 family farms crank out 95 million pounds of asparagus each year. Most of the produce comes from the west and southwest sides of the state.
“Michigan asparagus is a high-quality, nutritious homegrown vegetable with a longer shelf-life that can be used in a variety of ways to add a taste of Michigan agriculture to any meal,” said Jamie Clover Adams, Executive Director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board in a press release.
Asparagus, of course, come on stalks, and they sprout in the ground with enough water and sunlight during a six-to-eight-week harvesting season. An asparagus field takes four years to fully mature and can last for 15 years.
Before rushing to the checkout line, the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board recommends a few checks to make sure you’re getting the best asparagus.
First, check for a purple band around the asparagus that may indicate if it’s a product of Michigan or another part of the US. Adams says you can ask your local retailer to confirm its origin if you don’t see those labels.
To be sure you’re getting the cream of the crop, check that the flower tips are fully closed and the stems are well hydrated if cut—not dry or cracked. Stalks should be straight and firm without signs of wilting or bending.
The best way to keep asparagus wet is by banding them (or keeping them banded) together and placing them right side up in a bowl with a little water at the bottom to hydrate the stems. You can also wrap a damp paper towel around the stems.
If you see purple asparagus, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. These aren’t genetically modified—they’re their own variety—and come with a sweeter flavor than your typical dark green batches.
Finally, here’s a quick tip for cooking at home. The stems of asparagus can of course be stringy and less flavorful. But did you know that you don’t need to cut the stems to get rid of them?
With good asparagus, you should be able to snap them at the ends, just how you would a green bean. The stalk should give and break at just the right point.
For more tips and tricks, go to michiganasparagus.org. They have some pretty tasty recipes there too.
ALSO: The Wet Burrito Is a Culinary Staple. Of Course It Came From a Michigan Kitchen.