Asparagus Active Harvest Month
Look for bundles of fresh asparagus standing neatly at attention at the market stands. April is the most active harvest month and the best time to enjoy these local spears of “grass.”
Asparagus is a member of the lily family along with onions, garlic and leek. The crop takes three years to establish (from seed to harvest) but with proper conditions and maintenance, this perennial sends out shoots each spring for 10 to 15 years.
Color of the spears and condition of the tips determine asparagus quality. Whether pencil thin or thick-as-your-thumb, asparagus stalks should be crisp, well rounded and mostly green. Buds that form the tip of the asparagus should be dry, firm and closed to form a point. The small, lower woody white portion helps retain moisture in the spear and is easily snapped off during preparation.
Plump spears of asparagus are always my choice and simple preparation is always best.
Bend each spear gently to make a natural break between the tender and tough portions. Use the lower portions in soups or stews. Wash the remaining portions under running water. Some prefer to peel the stalks: I prefer to leave them natural. Add about ½ inch of water to a large, flat pan and bring to a boil. Add asparagus, cover and simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Do not overcook or it will be dull and mushy!
Roasted asparagus is simply delicious. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare asparagus. Pat dry. Place spears on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat the asparagus, Bake 9 to 14 minutes depending on the thickness of the spears. Transfer to a serving platter and season with a squeeze of fresh lemon or a sprinkle of finely grated Parmesan cheese or a small handful of fresh chopped parsley or mint.
If necessary, store unwashed asparagus, wrapped in damp paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for two to three days.
The convenience of pre-ordering and curbside pickup from the Orinda farmers market is available by downloading Tap4Markets from your mobile app store.
The Orinda market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. More information is available at www.cccfm.org, facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket and Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket or call the market hotline 925.431-8361.