Summer is on the horizon, which means more opportunities for locally grown produce at family dinners and picnics. Lucky for us Michiganders, June not only ushers in the season of cookouts and camping—it also marks the arrival of asparagus at farmers markets across the state.
Asparagus is a perennial plant, meaning that it will continually grow year after year. This tasty veggie is also an overachiever—a single asparagus plant can grow up to 10 inches in a single day. What other secrets is this stalk hiding? Spare a minute for asparagus and we’ll tell you all you need to know (and then some).
Color meets content. Believe it or not, asparagus comes in three different color varieties: green, white and purple. Green is the most common color, and also the most popular. The green color comes from chlorophyll, developed during the photosynthesis process. White asparagus, on the other hand, is grown without sunlight—giving it that ghostly appearance. But it has the same taste and nutritional content as green asparagus. Purple asparagus is in a league of its own, given the presence of antioxidants in its stalk. Purple asparagus is comprised of high sugar and low fiber, resulting in a more tender bite and sweeter taste.
Speaking of antioxidants. While antioxidants are common in many green vegetables, asparagus contains high levels of flavonoids, which can help protect your cells from harmful free radicals that can lead to cancer and certain age-related diseases. The compounds within asparagus have also been found to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Who knew asparagus was basically a little stalk of science?
Celebrate asparagus. Asparagus is a health-packed powerhouse, so why not celebrate it the way it deserves? Oceana County, MI, also known as the “Asparagus Capital of the Nation” is one of the most prosperous asparagus areas in the country producing 75% of Michigan’s asparagus. In celebration of all thing asparagus, Oceana County takes three days every June in honor of this hardworking vegetable. The National Asparagus Festival includes a parade, arts and crafts fair, and even a royal pageant. So put it on your summer to-do list if you can’t get enough of this green go-getter. And with the booming presence of asparagus here in Michigan, top asparagus-producer Washington state should keep an eye on the competition.
As you sit back on your porch this summer with a plate of freshly grilled asparagus, remember that there’s much more to that green (or white, or purple) vegetable than meets the eye.