Asparagus is April's Harvest of the Month
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Asparagus is a delicious perennial crop: plant it once and enjoy it for 20 years or more. The young, tender stems of asparagus are the tastiest and best eaten when only minimally cooked. After the young spears are picked in early spring, the asparagus matures into an airy fern-like puff that changes to a  golden color in the fall.

There are many varieties of asparagus including Mary Washington, Jersey Giant, Brock Imperial, Princeville and Purple Passion.  The varieties bred in New Jersey have a great reputation!
Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables and provides a significant source of:

•Vitamin A, C & K
•Thiamin
•Folacin
Eating asparagus has numerous benefits that stem from the huge assortment of vitamins and minerals it contains. Asparagus spears are rich in B-complex vitamins, which help the body to fight infection. Asparagus also contains "inulin," which feeds the good bacteria in the stomach, helping the digestive system. 

Asparagus can be lightly sautéed, roasted by itself, or added to stir-fries, omelets, and other recipes.

 

ROASTED ASPARAGUS

1 bunch fresh asparagus
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

 

Trim tough bottom 1/2 inch off of asparagus and discard. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus with oil and garlic, lightly season with salt. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Serve. (Optional: top with lemon juice or parmesan).


Asparagus is planted early in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked and in an area with full sun. It is important to deeply weed the bed so that the plants will thrive for years without weed pressure. The plants are grown from "crowns" which are plants that have been growing for a year. The young shoots should be harvested each year but it takes approximately 3 years to get a good crop. Several local growers are planting and growing patches of asparagus , including a few of our City Schoolyard Gardens. This month's harvest was sourced through the Local Food Hub from Holland's Three Rivers Farm in Rockbridge County.

From top left clockwise: Dixon, from Holland's Three Rivers Farm delivering asparagus to Local Food Hub Warehouse. Asparagus (90lbs) prepped to go to CCS kitchen. (courtesy of Local Food Hub) Youth at Clark enjoying their snack! Classroom at Jackson-Via learning about asparagus in the garden, right before they had a chance to eat it!

Asparagus - Trivia and Facts


Burnley-Moran student with asparagus
 
TRIVIA OF THE MONTH: “This vegetable grows in the wild in patches, and its scales act like leaves. Do you know what this long, green, spear-shaped vegetable is?"
  • The name "asparagus" comes from the Greek word asparagos (and originally from the Persian word asparag), meaning "sprout" or "shoot."
  • In the wild, where the spears aren't being harvested by humans, asparagus grows into a tall fern-like plant with red berries.
  • The spear is actually the stem of the plant and it is green because it photosynthesizes.
  • Asparagus contains a special nutrient called "inulin," which feeds good bacteria in your stomach, helping your digestive system.
 

Teresa Snow, Clark Kitchen Manager, and Eiley Patterson, City Schoolyard Garden Coordiantor for Clark Elementary, with asparagus
Asparagus - Heritage Information
 
Asparagus is a perennial crop that grows from the same roots system each year. Local growers plant small beds of asparagus and harvest them for about 3 weeks. Once ground temperatures get about 50 degrees in the spring, the first stalks will start to appear,  and the tastiest ones will grow when the ground temperature rises above 60 degrees. After sprouting it grows quickly, so farmers harvest it in the morning and afternoon by cutting it just above the soil. The cut spears can be be kept fresh by placing the cut ends in water.

The first of the asparagus harvest will come from Goldman Farm and Walnut Winds Farm in southern Virginia, where the soil will warmer than Charlottesville. As the temperature rises we will have asparagus from Hill Farm in Louisa County (who uses beneficial insects and microorganisms to keep their plants healthy and protect their crop), Critzer Family Farm in Nelson County (who has been growing asparagus for years and are now experts), and Holland's Three Rivers Farm (who brought over 200 pounds of asparagus to Local Food Hub in one week, a record they hope to break)!

 
Check out the Local Food Hub's blog to learn more!
 

Virginia Food Heritage Project has also posted a wonderful blog about asparagus this month. There is so much to learn! Check it out here
Harvest of the Month is a program that highlights a locally available crop each month by providing a fresh, healthy snack in all six Charlottesville Elementary Schools. Students also learn about the crop in their schoolyard garden and classroom. Information on growing, nutrition, and preparation of the crop is shared with teachers and families. The goal of Harvest of the Month is to support healthy living skills that strengthen our youth and community. 

It takes a community to make Harvest of the Month happen! City Schoolyard Garden is grateful to work in collaboration with Charlottesville City SchoolsLocal Food Hub, and Charlottesville Move2Health. Supported with funds through the Thomas Jefferson Health District of the Virginia Department of Health and other generous donors.

                                 

    Donate to keep Harvest of the Month growing!

City Schoolyard Garden is an independent, non-profit organization and your tax deductible donation makes a difference. Join us investing in our children's future, and providing them with a foundation for learning about health, nutrition, sustainability, and community. Click on the apple to donate or send a donation to our address below. Thank you!
P.O. Box 5285, Charlottesville, VA 22905
 
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