Celebrate National Asparagus Month in Pure Michigan

Child and parent holding asparagus
Father and Child Holding Fresh Asparagus | Photo Courtesy of Instagram Fan andrealynne_photography

Did you know that May is National Asparagus Month? 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. 

It’s nutritious, flavorful and one of Michigan’s first signs of spring. Michigan asparagus is the state’s first green vegetable harvested each year. A typical Michigan asparagus harvest begins in mid-April, but in wake of a long, cold winter and cooler spring, it can be pushed back.

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 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.
 
Asparagus Festival parade float
An Asparagus Festival Parade Float | Photo Courtesy of Silver Lank Sand Dunes - Hart Visitor Bureau

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.
Bundle of fresh picked asparagus
Fresh Picked Asparagus | Photo Courtesy of Riveridge Produce Marketing

Harvest is typically in full swing around the middle of May and through June. 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, be sure to stock up and enjoy fresh Michigan asparagus each 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:
 

Herb 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
  1. 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.
  2. Preheat broiler to high.
  3. Heat a small ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat.
  4. Add asparagus and egg mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until eggs are partially set, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cheese.
  5. Place pan under broiler. Broil 2 minutes or until eggs are set and top is lightly browned.
  6. 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.
For other ways to celebrate Michigan agriculture, plan a visit to a U-pick farm, orchard or farm market near you.

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

Nicole 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.