Elginsider: Fresh Local Asparagus

Welcome to the first edition of the "Elginsider: The Inside Scoop", where each week a staff member from Elgin County Economic Development & Tourism will share the inside scoop on life in Elgin County!

As a lifelong resident of Elgin County, I am pleased to share my rural roots with you.

It's only fitting that I dedicate my first post to local produce. Nothing makes me more excited than being able to shop locally and indulge in local food. We are so fortunate here in Elgin County to be surrounded by fertile soils, a plentiful growing season (although this rain could stop anytime now), and restaurants that support local farmers by utilizing local ingredients in their scrumptious menus. I want to dedicate this post to local asparagus, one of my favourite vegetables. Now, I think I may be a bit biased seeing as this is the first crop to be ready after a long and dreary winter, but I can't resist buying it when I see it. 

Although you can get asparagus all-year-round at the local grocery store, there is nothing better than local asparagus. With sources of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Folacin, asparagus is a nutrient-packed delight to any palate. According to Foodland Ontario, asparagus was once known as a luxury and was praised for its unique flavour by many famous individuals such as Julius Caesar (although you'd think he would be more of a romaine fan, don't you think?).

When buying asparagus it is important to look for straight and crisp spears with either purple of green tips. You may be searching for those thick spears, but know that size doesn't impact the flavour, freshness does. It is important to cook these spears as soon as possible and store it in the fridge accordingly. You can refrigerate asparagus for 2-3 days, but the freshness will be best if you wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and cover the bunch with plastic wrap. Alternatively, if your fridge has the room, you can place the asparagus straight up in a jug of water. 

Upon preparing, rinse the asparagus with cold water to remove any sand or dirt. Contrary to some's believes, it's best to snap the end stems off and allow them to break where "woody ends" are and discard them. It's important to try and not overcook asparagus, as they can lose its flavour and nutrients. I personally enjoy BBQing or steaming asparagus and serving it with butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. I also enjoy wrapping them in prosciutto and baking them. The possibilities are endless on how best to cook them.

Now the important part, where and when to buy local asparagus. May and June brings this delightful vegetable to fruition. The DeBackere Farm Market (http://www.debackerefarmmarket.ca), and Mazak Farms (https://mazakfarms.ca/) are two hotspots for local asparagus. You can even find it at Briwood Farm Market (http://www.briwoodfarmmarket.com/) and the Horton Farmer's Market (http://www.hortonfarmersmarket.ca/). For all the latest information and availability, follow them on their social media sites. 

Jessica DeBackere (soon to be Silcox)
Marketing & Communications Coordinator