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.

Eight Awesome Spring Activities to Enjoy this Season

Today, guest blogger Jennifer Hamilton of The Awesome Mitten gives us the run down on some great spring activities to enjoy in Pure Michigan this season.

When thinking about what activities I will be participating in this spring, ideas such as flood-proofing my home and shopping for heavy-duty rain boots came to mind. However, I dug a little deeper into my brain and with the help of others, came up with some great spring activities that we can all delight in.

Spring Building

Spring BuildingI once visited the Upper Peninsula  and was shocked to find my friend building a bonfire in the driveway. If you want to have a bonfire and do not have a fire pit, no fear, there is an excellent Plan B. It is as simple as using a steel wheelbarrow, placing kindling and logs inside, and making fire! It is great fun and a unique way to hold a bonfire almost anywhere.

Other fantastic springtime building projects are birdhouses and bird baths. Birdhouses and baths are always useful, and they are a great project for families to create together.

Spring Eats

During the winter, there are certain comfort foods we consume on a regular basis; soup, slow cooker delights, and various heavy pasta dishes. Spring food is so much more exciting! Most importantly, we can all get our grills out again. There is nothing more delightful than recognizing that grill smell for the first time after a long winter. Additionally, seasonal foods are about to make a great change. Locally grown watermelon, tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers will soon be at our disposal. As we all know, nothing tastes as good as local produce.

Motorcycle/Bicycle Rides

A great way to delight in the smells, sights, and sounds of spring is to get out there on your favorite two-wheeled contraption. Whether you prefer pedaling a bicycle or gliding along on a motorcycle, just go enjoy the fresh air. A fellow Awesome Mitten writer mentioned that he loves going for motorcycle rides to Michigan’s best ice cream spots. And of course, our beloved potholes become a fun obstacle to weave around.

Garden Planning

Though the ground may be taking ages to thaw, it is never too early to decide what you want to grow this year. Some of these items may even be started indoors in pots and transferred outside when the time is right. Michigan’s garden centers are filling up with people buying soil, indoor planters, and seed packets. Items such as tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage are great produce goods to start growing indoors, then transfer to an outdoor garden.

Disc Golf

Once the snow is melted enough, spring is a great time to explore some of Michigan’s disc golf courses. The sport has exploded over the last ten years, and many parks have taken notice and constructed courses as a result. Many courses wind through the woods, near water, and over beautiful areas of land. Disc golf does not require much physical effort, either, so people of almost any fitness level can participate and enjoy.

Spring Races

Disc GolfSpring is when fairweather runners make a comeback. Jump into a 5K to kickstart this running season! The best part about spring races is that many of them are themed; Easter Races, 5Ks with pets, and costume races start their season in March and continue on through the rest of the year. The best kind of race is the kind that allows you to get a little creative while running, then celebrating with some great food and beverages from race sponsors afterward! RunMichigan.com is jam-packed with races that take place literally every weekend; take a peak and pick one out.

 

 

Fishing

To go along with the great activity of grilling, one needs to catch some fish. Opening day of trout season is the last Saturday of April, so get those fishing licenses ready. Creeks, streams, rivers, bays, and lakes are all full of great tasting fish that want to come home with you. On one occasion, I even had the pleasure of purchasing live worms that had been injected with a fluorescent green dye, making the worms glow in the dark. So get those green worms ready, folks, it’s fishing season!

Morel Mushroom Picking

RelaxingThis is an activity for those with patience. It can be very tedious, but it is a spectacular way to get deep into the woods and spend quality time with your face near the ground of mother nature. Many people cook and eat these mushrooms, and quite a few also sell these morels at a fairly decent price. I do advise going in areas you are familiar with, or at least taking your phone with a GPS because it is alarmingly easy to lose track of oneself out there.

In short, spring is messy, but it is the loveliest kind of messy. Spring is for mud puddles, open windows, and new life. We Michiganders survived one crazy winter; now it is time to rejoice with a fine patio cocktail.

What are your favorite spring activities? 

1236752_10104693579790294_533864666_nJennifer Hamilton is a graduate student and outdoor enthusiast living in Traverse City. Jennifer splits her time between working in the substance abuse field, writing for the Awesome Mitten, and chasing after her three dogs.

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.