WALLA WALLA TABLE - Asparagus deserves same notoriety as wine, onions

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Walla Walla used to be known for many things, onions, wheat, the prison and asparagus. We used to be the crown jewel of asparagus growing on the west coast.

With most produce production moving to South America, we have seen a HUGE decline in asparagus production and cultivation here in the valley.

The problem that I have with that is that we grow the BEST darned asparagus I have ever eaten. EVER.

We continue to see less and less land dedicated to the production of asparagus here and not because ours is less tasty than that of Chile and/or California. It's just that there are less and less farmers willing to do it.

But what if we could sell our asparagus like we sell wine here? As a "premium" variety that has more to do with the local "terrior" and should command a premium price because of that distinction?

Great asparagus SHOULD be on the list of great spring offerings, like morels or ramps. Why not? The season is so short and really great asparagus, like we grow here, is really hard to come by. All of the great restaurants and chefs in the PNW should be demanding our asparagus. So why aren't they? Because we have not given them a reason to.

If we can have a sweet onion festival why not an asparagus festival? Get all of our great local chefs and even home cooks to compete for the best asparagus dish. From soups, to casseroles, to things we have not even thought of yet, we could have an Iron Chef type of cook off right here in downtown. The winners would be all of us and our local farmers, too.

Think about it. It does not have to be cheesy to be fun. Just good food and a friendly Walla Walla atmosphere. We just celebrate what we do best here. And even if it's only US celebrating, it will be more soon (look at the Garlic festival in Gilroy, CA).

Here are some interesting facts about asparagus.Asparagus:

  • Is a member of the Lily family.
  • Is low in calories, only 20 per 5.3 oz. serving, less than 4 calories per spear.
  • Can grow, under ideal conditions, can grow 10" in a 24-hour period.
  • Contains no fat or cholesterol.
  • Will generally produce for about 15 years without being replanted if given good care.
  • Is very low in sodium.
  • Is a good source of potassium., fiber, folacin, thiamin, vitamin B6 and glutathione (GSH).
  • One of the richest sources of rutin, a compound which strengthens capillary walls.

The larger the diameter, the better the quality!

Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid. A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folacin which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease.

Its wealth of nutrients, fiber and very low sodium and calorie content make asparagus a nutritionally wise choice for today's health-conscious consumer.

So, what do you do with it? I prefer to barely cook it at all. Or when you get the woody, stems and the last of the asparagus for the season, make some great soup for those dark days of winter when you really need to know that spring is coming. Cheers.

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