Celebrate National Asparagus Month with These Fun Facts and Events

Did you know that May is National Asparagus Month? Today, guest blogger Nicole Heslip from Michigan Farm Radio Network shares some fun facts, events and a simple, delicious recipe to help us celebrate asparagus season in Pure Michigan. 

For other ways to celebrate Michigan agriculture, visit michigan.org to help you plan a visit to a U-pick farm, orchard or farm market near you.

Asparagus3It’s nutritious, flavorful, and one of Michigan’s first signs of spring. Michigan asparagus is the state’s first green vegetable harvested each year, and this year, it’s fashionably late. A typical Michigan asparagus harvest begins in mid April, but in the wake of our long, cold winter and cooler spring, that’s not the case this year. After a near-three-week delay in the growing season, asparagus stalks are finally making their way to a farm stand or produce isle near you! 

Nestled on Michigan’s west coast, the majority of Michigan asparagus is grown in Oceana County, the Asparagus Capitol of the World! Hart, Michigan is home to the National Asparagus Festival, set for June 6-8th this year, and our very own Asparagus Queen. Travel down the coast near South Haven, and you’ve stepped foot in the second-largest producing area of the state. There are about 10,000 acres in Michigan producing asparagus, mostly between these two regions.

Harvest is typically a six to seven week season, with May in the center of it all. In fact, May celebrates Michigan Asparagus Month! Unlike crops like corn that can be picked, combined or chopped just once, all asparagus in Michigan is hand harvested. Throughout the season, asparagus will continue generating new growth, which means harvesters could make 25 to 35 trips across each field to harvest the complete crop. Import competition and labor shortages have dropped acreage in Washington state from 32,000 acres down to less than 6,000. As a result, Michigan moved up in the ranks as the 2nd largest producer of asparagus in the nation, producing just less than 21 million pounds.

ApsaragusThis year’s harvest is expected to be in full swing around the middle of May and through June. Despite the late start, the crop can have a successful year, as long as Mother Nature cooperates and farmers find a workforce for harvesting. Our fresh-picked asparagus will be marketed one of three ways. It can be processed as asparagus cuts or whole spears, or it will be sold on the fresh market.

Coming to farm markets and produce sections near you, with only a two month harvest window, be sure to stock up and enjoy fresh Michigan asparagus this May.

Once you’ve made a visit to your local U-pick farm or farm market, keep the Michigan asparagus celebration going with this delicious recipe from Michigan Ag Council:

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 5.25.48 PMHerb Frittata with Michigan Asparagus and Goat Cheese

Servings : 4
Time : 15 minutes

Ingredients:

6-8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces (May also roast. steam or sauté asparagus)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (I used some dried dill weed from my last year’s garden)
3/8 teaspoon salt
A pinch of fresh-grated nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
7 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 ounces soft goat cheese (about 1/4 cup)

Directions

Combine asparagus and 1/4 cup water in a small microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave at HIGH 2 minutes or until tender. Rinse with cold water; drain. Combine chives, dill, salt, pepper,nutmeg and eggs in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk.
Preheat broiler to high.
Heat a small ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat.
Add asparagus and egg mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until eggs are partially set, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cheese.
Place pan under broiler. Broil 2 minutes or until eggs are set and top is lightly browned.
Remove pan from oven. Run a spatula around edge and under frittata to loosen from pan; slide frittata onto a plate or cutting board. Cut into 4 wedges.

Have you been to a Michigan farm market? Where did you go?

Nicole_Heslip_headshotNicole Heslip is an Agri-News Reporter for the Michigan Farm Radio Network, bringing the latest market updates and agricultural news to more than 250,000 listeners across Michigan. She also currently serves on the communications workgroup for the Michigan Agricultural and Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).  Nicole grew up as a dairy farmer’s daughter in Allegan County, where her family today milks more than 2,200 cows and operates a custom farming business.

The Ultimate List of Upper Peninsula Wineries

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to Do in the U.P. shares his ultimate list of Upper Peninsula wineries.

10298784_10152849038958289_2327881022500686165_nDid you know that the Upper Peninsula currently has eight wineries? From Carousel Winery up in the Keweenaw to Threefold Vine Winery way down in Stephenson, U.P., wineries have been opening up (and sticking around) regularly over the past few years.

Following is a full list of all the wineries in the Upper Peninsula, as well as one bonus location I don’t want you to miss. But before we get started, here are a few impressive facts about Michigan’s wine industry I borrowed from the recent Four Fun Ways to Celebrate Michigan Wine Month blog post:

- Michigan wineries attract more than 2 million visitors annually
- Michigan’s wine, grape and grape juice products add nearly $790 million of economic value
- The industry accounts for more than 5,000 jobs statewide and produce a payroll of more than $190 million
- Michigan is ranked the fifth state in wine grape production in the nation and vineyard area has doubled in the last 10 years
- The wineries produce more than 1.3 million gallons of wine annually – placing Michigan 13th in wine production

Yes my friends, Michigan is a serious player in the national wine industry. If you’re a wine lover, I’d highly suggest carving out a little time to visit a few of these great vineyards and tasting rooms on your next Upper Peninsula vacation.

Leigh’s Garden Winery
904 Ludington Street

Escanaba, MI 49829
(906) 553-7799

Located in a historic building in downtown Escanaba, Leigh’s tasting room makes a great stop when visiting the Escanaba area. Leigh also hosts a summer artist series with the work of local artists rotating through the summer.

Northern Sun Winery
983 10th Road
Bark River, MI 49807
(906) 399-9212

Not from from Leigh’s in Bark River, Michigan sits Dave and Susie Anthony’s estate winery. Northern Sun has been growing grapes for twelve years and their three and a half acre vineyard is home to about 3,000 vines. A fully equipped below ground cellar and Mediterranean style cottage tasting room round out this excellent winery.

DSC_1044

Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

Threefold Vine Winery
S232 Menominee St.
Stephenson, MI
(906) 753-6000

Formerly located on the Garden Peninsula, Threefold Vine Winery recently relocated to the town of Stephenson.  But don’t worry, they brought last fall’s grapes, apples and other fruit with them and won’t miss a beat. Andy, Jan and family try to positively impact the local community as well as U.P. viticulture, and I’d say they definitely succeed in those efforts! I can’t wait to get to their new tasting room in the historic Stephenson bank building.

Garden Bay Winery
321 E Superior
Munising, MI 49862
(906) 361-0318

When the golf course owned by Garden Bay Winery owners John and Gloria could no longer support itself, they repurposed the course by planting grapes and berries and began making wine in what used to be the club house. Known for their award winning fruit wines, the folks at Garden Bay will be opening a new tasting room this year in Cooks, which is just a few minutes away from Manistique.

Mackinac Trail Winery
103 W Lakeshore Dr.
Manistique, MI 49854
(906) 341-2303

Just fifteen minutes away from the new Garden Bay Winery location sits Mackinaw Trail Winery’s Manistique tasting room. With live music outside in the summer and world class sangria on hand, this cool little tasting room makes for a fun stop. And if you want to grab lunch while in Manistique, the excellent Upper Crust Deli is right across the river.

Algomah Acres Meadery
611 Plank Rd.
Greenland, MI 49929
(906) 883-3894

Thanks to the folks at Algomah Acres, I now know what mead is. And for those of you who are in the dark like I was, mead is simply wine made from honey. And it’s delicious. Located in a historic catholic church, Algomah Acres makes many different great beeswax products in addition to their mead.

Want to give mead a try? Stop in and see Algomah Acres during the Michigan Honey Festival in Frankenmouth on July 12th, where they’ll be handing out samples of their artisanal brews.

Photo courtesy of Carousel Winery

Photo courtesy of Carousel Winery

Carousel Winery
21 Trimoutain Avenue
South Range, MI 49963
(906) 487-9463

Located in the same small town as Keweenaw Brewing Company’s production facility, Carousel Winery actually allows customers to make their own wine! They say the process takes about one hour and then in six to eight weeks you can return for the final bottling. They even let you create a custom label. Talk about a cool gift idea.

St. Charles Winery
1104 West Washington St.
Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 273-1109

As far as I’m aware, the St. Charles Winery in Marquette is the newest player in the Upper Peninsula wine scene. They’re so new, I haven’t had the chance to stop in yet. But according to a U.P. Second Wave article about them, they offer “wine tastings, samples, and bottle sales in-house, as well as private bookings, a gift shop and customer events.”

And if you’re looking for a place to stock up on a variety of Michigan made wine (or beer), check out the very cool Michigan Made Beer, Wine and More store in Marquette. They’ve got surprisingly cool shop full of great beer, wine and other products and make it easy to support all of the wineries listed above!

Have you been to any of these Upper Peninsula wineries? 

JesseLand21111Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P.

From Our Community: Michigan Made Culinary Creations

March is Food and Agriculture Month in Pure Michigan! To celebrate, we asked our Facebook community to share their favorite Michigan made foods and recipes. All of the wonderful comments and submissions made us quite hungry for these mouth-watering culinary creations! Below is a round up of some our fans’ favorite Michigan foods, along with some recipes to help you unleash your inner foodie.

Michigan Made Foods and Dishes

Shelly Vandlen Photograhy

Photo courtesy of Shelly Vendlen Photography

Homemade Strawberry cheesecake with Michigan strawberries. The best berries ever! -Shelly Lehr Vandlen

Cherry Pie at the Cherry Hut in Beulah! Doesn’t get any better than that! -Anita Leeann Johnson

Cherry wine from Cherry Creek winery -Kathy Grogg

Asparagus and rhubarb from our garden, as well as cherries, blueberries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries from local farm markets! -Carolyn DeFord Solomon

Can’t wait for Asparagus Season! -Hybza Chiropractic

Love “Traverse City Chicken” served at Via Bologna’s of Clarkston. -Judi Lackey

Pasties…one question though…ketchup or gravy? -Gloria Pebley

Joanne’ s fudge on Mackinac Island! -Esther Uramkin

Fresh Michigan-grown vegetables. Photo courtesy of Roz's Diner.

Fresh Michigan-grown vegetables. Photo courtesy of Roz’s Diner.

Love all the fresh produce but, the Michigan tomato cannot be beat! -Valerie Babcock Dinger

Anything with wild Michigan blueberries in it!! -Charlotte Trayer

I enjoy each as it comes into season, beginning with rhubarb and asparagus. I am tapping my own trees for maple syrup for the first time! Come on, sunshine and warmer temps. -Elizabeth Kern

3-way tie: sweet cherries, Jonathan apples, maple syrup….oops, what about blueberries, strawberries, red and black raspberries, peaches, pears, asparagus, morel mushrooms, sweet corn…all fresh! -Martha Woodman Stiles

Peach cobbler made with Michigan peaches, local flour and butter from Farmers market, sugar grown and manufactured in Michigan. -Katy Blackhall

SotE_AsparagusSalt of the Earth in Fennville. -Jeff Weeks (Salt of the Earth is a rustic American eatery in the heart of the Southwest Michigan’s thriving agricultural region supporting local growers for many of their vegetables and fruits)

Michigan apples and home grown corn. -Jane Miller

Michigan Made Recipes

Beans & Greens
Recipe courtesy of Facebook Fan Chuck Marshall via Life in Michigan. Made with fresh Michigan kale, onions, tomatoes and basil.

Ingredients
Yields 6-8 servings.
One can each (14 ounces), red kidney beans, black beans, and navy beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 1/2″ of a piece of fresh ginger)
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 bunches fresh greens (kale, collards, Swiss chard), washed, stemmed, and chopped
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground dried corriander
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayanne pepper
One 28 ounce can peeled and chopped tomatoes

Directions
Heat oil in a wok or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add garlic and ginger and cook about one minute.  Add onions, and cook until they are translucent, stirring occasionally.  Add wine, water, soy sauce, and the canned tomatoes, then stir in spices and salt.  Mix in the chopped greens.  Cover, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Then reduce heat and cook until greens are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Mix in the canned beans, cover, and again bring to a boil to heat through, stirring occasionally.

Simple Summer Fruit Salad
Recipe courtesy of Benjamin Twiggs Legendary Cherry Products.

Ingredients
1 can of Mrs. Twiggs Select Cherry Pie Filling
4-6 Cups fresh Michigan fruit, mix of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, etc.

Directions
Combine fruit with Mrs. Twiggs Cherry Pie Filling and serve. Try to keep a straight face when everyone asks for the recipe.

Grilled Chicken with Michigan Apples and Feta 
Recipe courtesy of Michigan Ag Council via Michigan Apples

Ingredients
Yields 4 servings.
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 5 oz. each)
2 Tbl. Olive oil
2 Tbl. Butter
2 Michigan Apples peeled and thinly sliced
4 oz. feta cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. fresh thyme

Directions
Prepare hot fire in charcoal or gas grill. Brush chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until juices run clear, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from grill to platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Melt butter in sauté pan over medium high heat. Add apples and sauté 2-3 minutes, until they begin to brown and become tender. Spoon apples over chicken and top with feta and thyme.

Do you have a favorite Michigan made food or recipe? Share it with us below!