Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Asparagus Guide

Have you heard about Locavore90? Locavore90 is a FREE program provided by Arcadia Farms and Flowerfield Enterprises that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to eat a locavore (local-only) diet for 90 days (or as often as reasonably possible). Sound like a lot of work? It won’t be. Click here to learn more about what we’ve done to make it simple.

Asparagus in Bowl

May is asparagus season. Several years ago our family went through an asparagus “phase” where we ate it three or four times a week. (That’s when Owen was too young to realize he could not like certain foods!) These days we don’t eat it as often, partly because we just got sick of sooo much of it and party because we prefer to buy it in season. Now that the time is right, I’m hoping to buy a large quantity of asparagus – some to enjoy now, and some to save for later. After making some phone call and poking around the internet, here’s what I discovered about buying and preserving in-season, local asparagus in Southwest Michigan.

When to Get It

Asparagus is in-season during May and sometimes as late as the first week of June.

Where to Get It

As part of our family’s Locavore90 Commitments, we’re gearing up to buy all of our food from sources within 100 miles of our home in Portage. To start my search for local asparagus, I went to my go-to resource for finding local food – www.localharvest.org. I did a quick search for farms within 100 miles of Kalamazoo which sell asparagus. For your convenience, I dumped all of that info in a handy spreadsheet which you can download by clicking here.

Keep in mind that just because a farm is listed on this spreadsheet doesn’t automatically mean that they have asparagus for sale. It just means that they indicated on Local Harvest (or I heard through word of mouth) that they have asparagus. For some small farms like mine, the food being grown may be reserved for CSA members or some other kind of arrangement. With that in mind, be sure to call ahead before you show up expecting to bring home so green goodness.

Calling ahead is just what I did. For my convenience, I chose the farms that are closer to my home and contacted them to get availability and pricing. Spring is a super busy time for farmers so I had some difficulty getting phone calls back. Once I received all the information I could get, I discovered a few farms with great prices but had major difficulty finding pesticide-free asparagus. There may be farms on the spreadsheet above which have pesticide-free asparagus for sale, but of the ones I contacted (and the ones that called me back), I didn’t find any. (NOTE: Bear-Foot Farms can get pesticide-free asparagus very early in the season – I missed it – and Bishop’s Sunny Ridge farm has very small quantities of naturally raised asparagus available for non-CSA customers.)

So… I know this is going to wound some of you… but… I decided to go ahead and buy conventionally raised asparagus. I’m certain that someone out there has naturally-raised asparagus for sale in our area, but if I wait too much longer to hear back from farmers, I’m going to miss out entirely.

Local Asparagus Sources

Of all the farms I contacted, here are the winners for best price:

Rajzer’s Farm Market in Decatur: $1.50/pound {269.423.4941}
Bishop’s Sunny Ridge Farm in Paw Paw: $1.75/pound {269.655.0091}
Harvey’s U Pick Farm in Tekonsha:  $1.80/pound {517.767.3408}

How to Save Money

Besides doing some comparison shopping to find the best price (you’re welcome) buying in bulk is another way to save money on asparagus. A bulk purchase helps you save because it provides you with the impetus to ask the seller for an additional price break. (“If I buy 20 pounds, is there any way you could give me a bit of a price break?”). When asking for a discount, remember to be respectful – this farmer has invested a lot of time, money and effort into producing your food. Expecting a 40% discount is probably unreasonable at best, insulting at worst. My advice is to ask without suggesting an amount and just take what you can get (even if it’s 0%).

The other way that buying in bulk saves you money is simply because it reduces your overall cost for a long period of time. You could buy 3 or 4 pounds of asparagus now while the price is cheap ($1.50/pound)… but if you want asparagus again in September, you’re going to pay a little bit more ($3.00/pound). Instead, why not buy a bulk amount and preserve some for future use?

How to Preserve It

Asparagus can be preserved in several ways including canning, drying, freezing, and pickling/fermenting. My family’s favorite way to enjoy asparagus is steamed and tender-crisp, so I’m opting to preserve our extra asparagus by freezing it. (I personally find canned asparagus to be too mushy.) If I didn’t have 10,000 projects on the horizon I’d love to experiment with pickled or lacto-fermented asparagus as well. You can be sure that I’ll be sharing all about my asparagus-freezing adventure soon! Meanwhile, to learn more about the options – and make the best choice for your asparagus mother lode – check out the resources below.

Preserving Asparagus Three Ways – Freezing, Drying and Lacto-Fermenting

How to Preserve Asparagus Well

Grow Your Own

The best way to get locally raised asparagus is to grow your own! For a guide to growing your own asparagus, click here.

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