By Susan Olcott
Asparagus is here – the first spring vegetable harvested from local farms. Yes, you can still find plenty of carrots, rutabagas and onions that were stored over the winter. But, asparagus is the first vegetable to poke up in the spring. Asparagus is a strange vegetable, as it is really more of a flower in many ways. In fact, it was once classified as part of the lily family, but now has split from the spring onion group to constitute its own family, Asparagaceae. Asparagus grows wild in many parts of the world, where it can be particularly spindly and woody. But the fresh spring shoots that we get here are delicate and tender.
Earlier this week, I stopped by Fairwinds Farm to happily discover that their first crop of asparagus was for sale. Apparently, it takes about two years to establish a good crop, meaning that the bunches for sale had been planted two years ago. Those plants have been as patient as many of us have been for the weather to finally warm up. Next up, in addition to the seedlings they already have for sale, will be Fairwinds’ first spinach and other greens. And, I’m already excited for berries, which will start showing up at the market mid-June. Fairwinds also sells jams and spreads made from their berries as well as an assortment of grains and beans throughout the year. Their farm, which is both in Topsham and Bowdoinham, is the only farm represented at the Farmer’s Market that is on an easement managed by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT). The part in Topsham is on a beautiful piece of land along the Cathance River. And, you’re probably familiar with the fields in Bowdoinham if you’ve picked berries there.
Now, for a few ideas of what to do with spring’s first harvest – a salad, a spring pasta, and a pickling recipe to store up spring’s flavors for the chilly months of winter.