Asparagus season is here! Many consumers wait all year for fresh asparagus. Did you know that here in Chatham-Kent we are the number two producer of asparagus in all of Ontario? Thanks go to the Asparagus Farmers of Ontario (www.asparagus.on.ca) for the valuable information they provided for this article.
Asparagus is a spring vegetable and a member of the Lily family, which includes onions, garlic, leeks, turnips and gladioli. Asparagus shoots arise from underground “crowns” that are planted about 8 inches deep. Under ideal weather conditions, an asparagus shoot, or “spear”, can grow 25 cm (10″) in a 24-hour period. If not harvested, the shoots grow into tall fern like plants with small red seeds. Once the shoot starts to “leaf out” the stems become woody and inedible. Asparagus is a long-lived crop that can be productive for 15 or more years if given proper care.
Asparagus is a perennial plant that is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas. The name “asparagus” comes from the Greek language meaning “sprout” or “shoot”. The ancient Greeks loved wild asparagus, but it was the Romans who first cultivated it nearly 2,500 years ago!
In the 16th century, asparagus gained popularity in France and England. From there the early colonists brought it to America. Asparagus is often called the “Food of Kings”. King Louis the XIV of France was so fond of this delicacy that he ordered special greenhouses built so he could enjoy asparagus year-round. Julius Caesar and Thomas Jefferson also considered asparagus a luxury and enjoyed its distinctive flavour.
Today, the biggest asparagus producing countries are China, Peru, Germany, Mexico, Thailand and Spain. The United States (mainly California, Washington and Michigan) are 7th and Canada is 16th in world production.
Asparagus has only 4 calories per spear and is very low in sodium. It is a good source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, protein, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium. Asparagus is also rich in rutin, a powerful antioxidant.
Asparagus is a diuretic. It brings about an increase in the excretion of chlorine and phosphate compounds. This dilutes the urine, which helps prevent renal and urinary tract inflammations.
So why not buy some delicious and nutritious Chatham-Kent asparagus and try a few new recipes. Remember, green is good for you. But don’t delay – here today, but aspara-gone tomorrow.
With the spring planting season underway, this means farmers are moving large farm machinery on our local roads as they move from field to field. Please slow down and be very careful when you see these farm implements. Also, please be patient. Our farmers are just trying to do their job and not intentionally trying to slow you down. Thank you for your understanding.
June 4-10 is Local Food Week across all of Ontario, so here in Chatham-Kent, let’s celebrate our delicious and nutritious local food and our amazing local food producers.
Think about this – When God seems so absent, He is very much present.
Just some food for thought.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at: www.wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 45 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’