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signs of spring
farmer jo welcomes asparagus
by Joanna Piatek
1 2 3 4

Daffodils. Cherry blossoms. Easter bunnies. Asparagus. What do these have in common? Signs of spring!

Here in the NW we have to live through a long, wet winter, but the cold damp days are worth it when spring finally flings itself upon the trees and gardens. As I write, I am being showered with cherry blossom petals, and a golden carpet of daffodils nods in agreement with every statement I make. I love spring Ė especially when it is in such a good mood.

Oh the pleasures of spring. The sight of new grass, the sound of frogs in the pond, the scent of blossoms, the warmth of sunshine, and best of all, the tastes. Even on a cool cloudy day, asparagus, a traditional veggie on many Easter and Passover tables, says spring. And just like spring, itís gone all too soon.

Asparagus is a perennial plant that grows from a long horizontal-creeping root, which shoots up numerous asparagus spears for about 7 weeks each year. Asparagus comes in several sizes, from thinner than a pencil to an inch or so thick. The thinner spears come from very young asparagus plants, while the fatter spears shoot from older plants. If the asparagus stalks are left to mature, they bloom into wide bushy ferns.

In the United States, green asparagus are the most commonly available. However, in Europe, white asparagus, grown completely underground in order to maintain its white color, is preferred. The root is planted in deep trenches and as the stalks begin to grow. They are kept completely covered with straw and dirt to prevent sunlight from triggering the green chlorophyll in the plant.

The other day, while whining to my checkout lady about the price of a pound of asparagus, I learned that wild asparagus used to be very common here in the West. She informed me that as a kid she used to go to the creek beds with her mother to pick their own asparagus for dinner. Canít beat that price!

saunter this way for more asparagus goodness!


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