Region of Origin

Commodity:

Asparagus

Description & Origin

Asparagus is a distant cousin to onions, leeks, and garlic. They are a perennial, growing in patches that can live for up to 20 years. As a vegetable, they are harvested as very young shoots when they are approximately nine inches high. If allowed to continue to grow, they become tall with many thin, feathery branches. It is essential that they be harvested immediately when they reach the right st...

Other Names

Grass, Sparrowgrass, Asperge (French), Spargel (German), Asperge (Dutch), Espárrago (Spanish)

Health Benefits & Nutrition

Asparagus is not only delicious; it brings a myriad of health benefits. Its fibrous stalks are a great source of dietary fiber. It is low in calories and is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, a B-vitamin associated with healthy growth and pregnancy. Asparagus is a good source of antioxidant amino acids, in particular glutathione, which is associated with detoxification. Asparagus also contains a chemical called asparagusic acid, which is broken down into various sulfur-containing compounds when digested. Some of those volatile compounds are excreted in urine – hence the infamous phenomenon known as “asparagus pee.”

The roots and shoots of asparagus have been used for their medicinal properties for over 2,000 years. In ancient Rome, asparagus was used medicinally before it was used as a food. It was used to treat everything from heart trouble to toothaches to bee stings to high cholesterol. It has also been believed that asparagus has restorative effects on bowels, kidneys, and liver.

Our Varieties

Asparagus Green

Description

Green asparagus is the most common variety of asparagus. While it is available year-round, it is most associated with springtime when local product is in season. It is a deep green color and slender at the tip that thickens at the end. The tips of the stalks can be a dark green to a light purple. The standard variety is typically nine inches in length, but the diameter varies – they are typically packed by size, the most common being standard, large, and jumbo. Green asparagus have a mild grassy, distinctly bitter flavor. Its earthy, fresh flavor makes it a great feature in spring dishes.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Green asparagus pairs very well with other spring flavors. It does not need to be peeled, unless an exceptionally tender eating experience is desired.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
MEXICO
Good
Good
Good
Good
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Good
PERU
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
USA (NJ)
Good
Good
Fair

Asparagus Purple

Description

The outer skin of purple asparagus cultivars are a rich plum color, while inside the flesh is a creamy green. The stems of purple asparagus are more tender than its green counterpart. It also has a higher sugar content making it slightly sweeter. Studies suggest that purple asparagus may have higher polyphenol contents than other cultivars.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Due to its sweetness, purple asparagus caramelizes more easily and is wonderful when served raw. Note that when cooked, the purple color tends to fade to a green, so raw applications may be preferred. Applying vinegar or lemon juice prior to cooking can preserve the purple color.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
PERU
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair

Asparagus White

Description

White asparagus differs from green asparagus in the growing process. Traditionally in Europe, where the process was developed, soil is mounded so that the sprouting asparagus spears remain underground with no exposure to light. In South America, sawdust or black plastic are often used to protect the plant from light. The dark conditions prevent the production of chlorophyll, which is the compound responsible for the plant’s green color – leaving the plant white. The asparagus is usually hand-harvested before it peeks out of the ground. This is a very labor intense growing process, hence the higher price usually fetched by white grass. In Europe, where white asparagus is considered a springtime delicacy (especially in Germany), the process is strictly controlled. The Dutch even call it “white gold.” Very few if any US growers produce white asparagus on a commercial scale due to labor intensity and lack of wide-spread demand. White asparagus has a very mild flavor with only a hint of the bitterness typically associated with asparagus. It also tends to have a fatter spear with a very tender, meaty texture. The tips of white asparagus are smooth and appear almost fused.

Variety Tips & Tricks

White asparagus is prized for its tender inner flesh, and most chefs tend to prefer a thicker size. The outer skin of the white asparagus is fibrous and it should be peeled from end almost to the tip before use. The cooking time for white asparagus may be slightly longer than for other varieties, and it holds up better to cooking, so be sure to adjust recipes accordingly. In Europe it is often steamed until tender and served with a simple Hollandaise sauce.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
HOLLAND
Fair
Fair
PERU
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair
Fair

Foodservice Tips

Traditional Culinary Uses

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can be served in a variety of ways. While available year-round, it is most associated with the spring season, when it is available locally. Once any woody sections at the end of the asparagus are removed, it can be boiled, roasted, sautéed, stir-fried, grilled, pureed into soups or sauces, and eaten raw. It pairs well with almost all seasonal spring ingredients. Green asparagus is often served simply grilled or roasted, but can also be incorporated into stir-fries or salads. White asparagus is usually cooked and has a long history as a specialty spring item in Northern Europe, particularly Germany, where it is often served with a cream sauce. Purple asparagus can be prepared in the same ways as green asparagus.

Flavor Pairings

English Peas, Morel Mushrooms, Arugula, Lemon, Garlic, Shallot, Ginger, Olive Oil, Salt, Nutmeg, Risotto, Butter, Parmesan, Cream, Mustard, Egg, Anchovy, Prosciutto, Bacon, Lamb, Salmon, Steak, Chicken

How to Prepare

Wash asparagus well immediately prior to use. Asparagus grown in New Jersey can be particular sandy and should be soaked upside-down in water to allow any sand trapped in the tight head to release. Some spears may have a woody section at the bottom end that should be removed for the best eating experience. To test the spear, bend the bottom tip of the stalk. If it is very stiff, it should be bent back gently until it breaks off (it will usually break at the end of the fibrous section). It can also be manually trimmed. Once washed and trimmed, asparagus is ready for use – except the white variety, which should be peeled. The purple and green varieties can be peeled if desired, but it is not necessary. Use whole, chopped, or shaved.

How to Store in the Kitchen

Asparagus should be kept refrigerated. It is best to use them as quickly as possible to ensure the best quality. Keeping the asparagus ends moist helps in preservation. Rest the cut ends in an inch of water or on a wet towel while stored in the fridge to prolong shelf life.

Fight Food Waste Tips for root to stem cooking

Use the woody ends of asparagus to make asparagus soup or asparagus sauces! Have any extra asparagus? Freeze it for later use before it goes bad. Just clean, trim, blanch, and freeze in air-tight bags.

Warehouse Storage & Handling

Maintain these conditions for optimal short-term storage shelf life.*

IDEAL STORAGE TEMP:

32-35°F

TEMP STORAGE ZONE:

32-39°F (Cold Storage)

SUBJECT TO CHILLING INJURY:

Yes – Prolonged storage at 32°F or below will result in a limp, wilted appearance, darkened tips, loss of glossy appearance, and off flavors.

RELATIVE HUMIDITY:

Lower Limit-Upper Limit (%) 95-100%

PRODUCES ETHYLENE:

Yes-Low

SENSITIVE TO ETHYLENE:

Yes-Medium

ETHYLENE RECOMMENDATIONS:

Asparagus may become tough or decay may occur when exposed to excessive ethylene. Any spears with decay may release increased amounts of ethylene, affecting other spears in the case. They should be removed ASAP.

Quality Assessment

Quality asparagus will be firm with tightly compact tips. There should not be excessive feathering on the tips. Stalks should be straight, glossy, and tender. Asparagus should have a good snap, and very little bend, but not be overly fibrous or woody.

Important Handling Notes

Fresh asparagus will deteriorate quickly if low temperatures are not maintained. It is best to prevent asparagus from reaching room temperature as it quickly develops woodiness and loses its sugar content.

Optimum Shelf Life

Depending on variety, conditions at harvest, and handling, asparagus may last up to 2-3 weeks.

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