New Farm Asparagus
- Category: Vegetables
- Harvest Time: April - early June
- Growing method: Crowns planted in soil beds
Our asparagus season starts at the beginning of April with our first crop coming from tunnels and continues until mid-June from outside fields.
Our main varieties are Gijnlim and Millennium.
Asparagus is a member of the Lily family; spears grow from a crown that is planted about 30 cm deep in sandy soils. Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 25 cm in a 24-hour period. Each crown will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer. The outdoor temperature determines how much time will be between each picking. Early in the season, there may be 4-5 days between pickings and as the days and nights get warmer, a particular field may have to be picked every 24 hours. Spears are washed and graded for size by diameter and typically sold in bunches. After harvesting is done the spears grow into ferns, which produce red berries and the food and nutrients necessary for a healthy and productive crop the next season.
Do not wash asparagus before storing and never soak it. Trim the ends of fresh asparagus and stand them upright in a jar with about an inch of water in the bottom. Cover with a plastic bag and store spears in the refrigerator for up to two days. Many chefs peel the lower stalks to avoid any woody strings, but others insist this is not necessary with properly selected, thin, fresh asparagus. Peeling is recommended for thicker stalks. If you feel the need to peel, chop off the bottom inch or two of the stalk, and peel downward from the tip. To prepare, wash the vegetable by gently sloshing it up and down in a sink of cool water, gently rubbing the sand from the stalks with your fingers. Asparagus needs to be cooked quickly to a tender-crisp texture. To gauge doneness, poke a stalk with a knife and you should feel a little resistance.
Cooking Hints and Tips
One cooking method is to stand the asparagus in three inches of boiling water, cover and cook for 8 minutes or until the tips are tender. This method cooks the thicker bottom stalk while steaming the more tender tips. Steaming should be reserved for only the youngest, most tender asparagus.
To blanch, fill a large pot half full of water, add one tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Add asparagus and partially cover until a second boil quickly begins, then uncover and cook for 5-8 minutes. Remove to a towel to dry.
To freeze, blanch by plunging into boiling water for 3-4 minutes and remove immediately to chilled water. Drain. Pack in containers, label and freeze for up to nine months. It's a good idea to tie the asparagus in bundles of 10-12 stalks for cooking, so they can be quickly removed from the water all at once.
Asparagus should be served warm or at room temperature as refrigeration dulls the flavour. It's imperative not to overcook asparagus. Remember it will continue to cook a bit, even after removed from boiling water. Asparagus readily adapts to other quick cooking methods, such as stir-fry and sauté.