Boulder County Farmers Markets: At the markets: Asparagus is up

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Boulder County Farmers Markets

In the world of vegetables, asparagus is well-loved. Maybe that’s because it’s often paired with garlic and Parmesan cheese. Or maybe asparagus is just that delicious on its own.

The magical week when asparagus first appears at market booths has arrived. To celebrate the arrival of these magical miniature trees, we want to share a bit more about how this unique vegetable grows.

When it comes to asparagus, the folks at Kiowa Valley Organics know a thing or two. This 50-acre family farm in Roggen, owned and run by Sara Bevan and David Rippe, specializes in growing asparagus and has been growing it for 20-plus years.

We wanted to learn from Kiowa Valley Organics about their prized green stalks, so we asked Sara’s daughter, Krista Peace, also a worker at the farm, what it takes to grow the good stuff.

If you didn’t know how asparagus grows, now you know. Just like little trees popping out of the soil. (Boulder County Farmers Markets / Courtesy Photo)

Growing asparagus

Asparagus is different from many other veggies because it is a perennial. This means that the veggie grows back each year rather than needing to be replanted after harvest each year.

In practice, Peace explains that this takes a lot more time and attention because they have to keep the plant alive and happy year-round.

Once spears have reached maturity (usually between 6 to 10 inches tall), they are ready to harvest.

Cutting each individual stalk out of the soil is a painstaking and labor-intensive process. Those perfectly packed bunches of asparagus you see at the market don’t just harvest themselves.

But if you treat the plant well, it can live and produce for about 20 years. Asparagus is a fast- grower that needs to be harvested often during the growing season. It can grow six inches in one day if the perfect warm weather day arises.

The Kiowa farmers are pros at growing and eating asparagus, so we asked them for their favorite recipe.

Peace’s simple yet delicious recipe involves covering the asparagus in a little olive oil, garlic salt and Parmesan cheese. Then either broil, roast or grill it for about 10 minutes. Part of the magic of asparagus is its versatility and myriad of cooking options.

Cooking asparagus

At Boulder County Farmers Markets, we’re a team of local food fanatics — a team with opinions about the best way to prepare local asparagus.

We asked our team, and they delivered, so we’re sharing some of our staff’s favorite preparation methods.

Our executive director, Mackenzie, will be making a raw asparagus salad with breadcrumbs, walnuts and mint. Mickey and Ann will be putting their asparagus on pizza, ideally arranged in an aesthetically pleasing sunburst pattern.

Stephanie is wrapping her spears in prosciutto, mozzarella and a sliver of red pepper, then baking them and seasoning with garlic and ginger.

Jodi is using the air fryer; Michelle is oven-roasting; but Liz has a slightly more complex method. First, boil the asparagus for three minutes. Then, add to a warmed skillet for four minutes. She claims perfect, crispy-crunchy stalks will be your result.

Maybe you’ve already got a tried-and-true recipe that you would never waver from, but if you’re feeling adventurous, give one of these methods a try.

This weekend is Mother’s Day, so show your mom — or any of the strong women in your life — that you know how to cook and eat your vegetables. We think she’ll be proud.

The first few asparagus bunches started appearing at markets last weekend, and with Kiowa Valley Organics now at markets, there promises to be asparagus galore. The competition might be stiff for these stalks on Saturdays.

If you’re not an early-bird shopper, your best shot at getting your mitts on a bunch (or three) might be at the Boulder Wednesday market, which is opening today, from 4 to 8 p.m. on 13th Street in Boulder.