Spring is here, bringing with it one of the season’s most delicious vegetables: asparagus! The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden-Fresh Cookbook shares tips on how to grow, harvest, grill, roast, and store this spring favorite.
Bring Out the Spring Asparagus
In the Garden:
Asparagus, a perennial, can produce for 15 to 25 years. Start a bed in a well-drained site in full sun. In the fall, amend the soil with rich organic matter. In the spring, plant 1-year-old asparagus crowns 12 to 18 inches apart in 6-inch-deep trenches. Cover the crowns with 2 inches of soil and repeat the cover every 2 weeks, until the trench is filled. Fertilize the bed each year.
How to Harvest:
Asparagus can be picked in the third year after planting. In the cool morning for 4 weeks, gather spears that are 6 to 9 inches long and at least ⅜-inch thick and have tightly closed tips. Snap the stalks off at the base; don’t use a knife, or you may injure the crown. Use immediately for best flavor. In ensuing years, extend the picking time to 6 to 8 weeks.
Save ’n’ Store:
To store for a week or two, wash asparagus spears in cold water and place a moist paper towel over their cut ends. Place the spears in a plastic bag and store in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. To store for 2 to 3 days, trim the stems and stand the spears in 1 inch of water in a glass, cover with plastic, and refrigerate.
In the Kitchen:
Before cooking asparagus, cut or break off about an inch of the tough stalk. Use a potato peeler to peel thick stalks; thin stalks do not need to be peeled.
How to Roast:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the asparagus in a single layer on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes, or until tender (time will depend on the thickness of the stalks).
How to Grill:
Roll spears in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for 5 to 10 minutes, turning every few minutes until tender.