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.

Take a Bite Out of Michigan’s Produce Season

To celebrate Food and Agriculture Month in Michigan, we asked blogger Liz Della Croce of The Lemon Bowl to tell us how to take advantage of Michigan’s fresh produce season with fun family outings and a few delicious Michigan made recipes.

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Spring is right around the corner which means one thing here in Michigan: the growing season has finally arrived! As one of the nation’s largest exporters of produce, we do not take this time of year for granted. From ripe cherries to crisp apples to juicy blueberries and more, here are few fun ideas to make the most out of produce season and create long lasting memories with your family:

Visit a Farmers Market: Nothing gets kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables quite like a visit to a farm stand.  Whether you visit the same farmers market regularly or only pass a farm stand a few times a month, let your kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable each visit. Getting little ones involved in the buying process is an ideal way to get even the pickiest of eaters excited about trying something new. Check out this Farmers Market locator to find one near you!

Head to a U-Pick Orchard: Take advantage of the warmer weather and head to a nearby orchard. Picking your own fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to get the freshest produce available while also sneaking in a little exercise.

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Be sure to bring the whole family and get the kids involved. Little hands are great for picking ripe blueberries or sitting on Daddy’s shoulders to reach that perfect peach. This Michigan U-Pick Guide will help you find a nearby orchard and also guide you through what is in season and when.

Eat Seasonally: From the first asparagus spears in early spring to late-fall apples, eating with the season is one of the best ways to ensure that your family gets a full range of nutrients throughout the year. Additionally, when you eat fruit that was picked just a few miles down the road, you will get maximum flavor and peak freshness.

Create Something Delicious: As you eat your way through the season, here are a few tasty ideas for Michigan’s most popular fruits and vegetables:

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Apple Recipes:

Asparagus Recipes :

Peach Recipes:

Cherry Recipes:

Blueberry Recipes

What are your favorite ways to take advantage of Michigan’s world-class produce and agriculture? Do you have a favorite farm stand or u-pick orchard? 

Learn more about Michigan Agriculture in the video below.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 3.15.39 PMLiz Della Croce is the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl, a healthy food blog. Since 2010, Liz has been creating delicious recipes using real ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality. Liz has appeared live on the TODAY Show and tapes regular cooking segments for her local NBC affiliate station.  She is a contributor for The Huffington Post and Cooking Light. Liz’s recipes and food photography have been featured on several websites including Shape Magazine, Food Network blog, The Cooking Channel, TODAY Food and more. 

Twelve Days of Michigan: An Infographic

The holidays are a time for celebration, food, festivities and traditions. Michigan has unique connections to many of these.

During the 12 Days of Michigan, we will celebrate all that our state has to offer with a Michigan holiday fact each day.

Day 1: Monday, December 2
Michigan grows more than 300 farm commodities including a holiday meal favorite – cranberries!  Our nearly 300 acres produce more than 3 million pounds of cranberries a year.

Day 2: Tuesday, December 3
Do you enjoy a Honeybaked Ham for holiday dinners? Did you know that the recipe, crunchy sweet glaze and unique machine that slices the ham were all invented in Michigan? In 1957, Harry J. Hoenselaar opened the first HoneyBaked Ham Company in Detroit and it has since grown to be more than 400 stores nationwide.

Day 3: Wednesday, December 4
December 4 marks the third annual Menorah In the D on the last night of Chanukah. The 24-foot menorah was designed and built by local artists and brothers Erik and Israel Nordin and stands proudly in Campus Martius/Cadillac Square.

Day 4: Thursday, December 5
Looking for a one-of-a-kind festive event? Experience scenes of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with Downtown Holly’s 40th Annual Dickens Festival, visit the largest Christmas store at Frankenmuth’s Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland  or view one of the 1.5 million twinkling lights at Rochester’s Big Bright Light Show. For more events, visit michigan.org/events.

 

Day 5: Friday, December 6
Picking out a fresh, fragrant Christmas tree is often a holiday tradition.  Michigan ranks third in the nation in the number of Christmas trees harvested and produces a wider variety of trees than almost any other state, supplying approximately three million fresh Christmas trees nationally each year.  The 2013 Michigan state Christmas tree is a 71-foot blue spruce that traveled 460 miles from Iron River and now stands in the Capitol.

Day 6: Monday, December 9
If every family in the U.S. shifted $10 a month to locally-owned, independent businesses instead of national chains, over $9.3 billion would be directly returned to local economies.  With nearly 98% of all businesses in Michigan being small businesses, it’s important to support local retailers this holiday season including popular pop up shops that are making their way from downtown Detroit to Grand Rapids.

Day 7: Tuesday, December 10
Kwanzaa is celebrated each year between December 26 and January 1. In Detroit, many families gather to reflect and honor its founding principles. The Charles H. Wright Museum will pay tribute to this holiday’s rich cultural heritage with a candle lighting each night followed by evening festivities.

Day 8: Wednesday, December 11
Michigan winter recreation offers travelers a variety of things to do and brings in about $2.5 billion to the state’s economy. Why not take a holiday trip?  In Michigan, you are never more than two hours away from a ski area and with more than 6,500 miles of interconnected snowmobile trails in the state, dashing through the snow is a breeze.  Experience Mount Bohemia, which was one of four destinations competing for Powder Magazine’s 2014 Ski Town Throwdown or make a stop in Christmas, Michigan – a town in the Upper Peninsula that got its name from a roadside factory built there in 1938 to make holiday gifts and is now a popular destination for snowmobilers.

Day 9: Thursday, December 12
December 12 is National Poinsettia Day and many of the holiday plants are grown here in Michigan.  The state is seventh in the U.S. for poinsettia production and produced 2.3 million plants last holiday season.

Day 10: Friday, December 13
The Polar Express has been a holiday classic for more than 25 years, but did you know that author Chris Van Allsburg, a Grand Rapids native, used a Michigan train for inspiration?  When the movie was made in 2004, Michigan’s Pere Marquette 1225 locomotive was used for the prototype and technicians used sounds of the whistle and the clatter of the wheels for the animated film.

Day 11: Monday, December 16
Indeed, a northern Michigan company is supplying the wool that will be used to make sweaters for Team USA at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

Day 12: Tuesday, December 17
Chestnuts are famous for roasting on an open fire, but Michigan is known for growing the sweet, edible nut with the largest number of chestnut growers and the most acreage of any state.   Chestnuts can be used in a wide variety of dishes, from soups, stews and stuffing to fancy desserts.

 

Do you know any Michigan holiday fun facts? Use #12DaysofMichigan and be sure to follow us on Twitter.