Growing delicious asparagus
Asparagus cultivation in Hokkaido began with white asparagus in 1923. Following European cultivation methods, it was grown under piles of soil and then harvested. During this period, only white asparagus was grown. It was then canned and exported.
Cultivation of green asparagus, which grows as crowns exposed to sunlight, began about 45 years ago. Although white and green asparagus are the same species, the difference in flavor based on whether they are cultivated under or above the soil is remarkable.
In the past, pig manure was fermented and matured into asparagus fertilizer. When this fertilizer was used in large quantities, asparagus could reach diameters of 5-6 cm in some cases. Organic fertilizers such as fully matured compost are still essential for growing thick, sweet asparagus. Fertilizer is applied from summer to fall, after the previous asparagus crop has been harvested.
The asparagus grows tall, absorbs sunlight and stores nutrients in the rhizome.The flavor of this year’s asparagus is born from last year’s sunlight.
(Unheated) Greenhouse Grown
The spring weather in Hokkaido can be unpredictable. For the earliest Hokkaido asparagus, greenhouse grown green asparagus is recommended. Even without artificial heat, green asparagus can grow quickly inside the greenhouse as it is warmed by the sun and supplied with water through tubes.
In an ideal world, green asparagus is treated like royalty as it is grown. The perfect conditions are gentle wind and sunlight, temperatures of about 20ºC (68ºF) during the day and 10ºC (50ºF) or more at night, with warm drizzle that only falls at night. However, field grown asparagus must withstand harsh climatic conditions such as low temperatures. This effort brings out the umami flavor.
We are particular about growing white asparagus under mounds of soil as is done in Europe. It takes skill to harvest it from the soil. This crop has become less common due to the intensive labor required. White asparagus cultivated under soil mounds has a sweet, umami taste with bittersweetness below the surface. The reason that asparagus grown under the soil is so delicious is a mystery. Perhaps it is all the hard work required to cultivate it.
The yield of purple asparagus is half that of green asparagus, meaning that it absorbs plenty of nutrients and is full of sweetness. This sweetness is further enhanced when it is grilled. When boiling, add four or five drops of lemon juice or vinegar to keep its purple color even when cooked.
Crisp boiled green asparagus
1. Press on the asparagus with your nails and peel the bottom from where they do not leave a dent.
2. Cut off about 5 mm of the root and cut the stem in half.
3. Boil the asparagus in water with a generous helping of salt. This can also be done using a frying pan.
4. When the green of the asparagus becomes bright, take a piece from the hot water and try pressing the root side with your finger.When the asparagus is cooked it will feel slightly firm to the touch.
5. Remove the asparagus from the hot water and quickly cool with cold water.Prolonged soaking in cold water will cause the asparagus to lose its flavor.
Asparagus also tastes great when cooked in a microwave oven after preparing as described in step one and covering in plastic wrap.
Crisp boiled white asparagus
1. Use a peeler to peel the white asparagus. For thin stems start 1/3 from the root, for thick stems start just below the head of the spear.
2. Put the white asparagus in boiling water with a small amount of salt and boil for three to five minutes over a medium heat. When the water re-boils, turn off the heat and leave the pan to rest.
3. Leave thin stems to rest for about five minutes and thick stems to rest for about seven minutes.The bitterness and astringency are reduced during this time.
4. If a bamboo skewer passes smoothly through the thickest part, the firmness is correct.
5. Starting with the thinnest stems, remove the white asparagus from the water and place it on a colander to cool. Take care as soaking in cold water may bring out bitterness from the asparagus.
German style asparagus with delicious butter
(suitable for green or white asparagus)
Boil the asparagus and mix with butter while still hot.
In this simple, delicious dish, the flavor and saltiness of the butter bring out the sweetness of the asparagus.
It pairs well with wine or beer.
Other recipe ideas are included with asparagus deliveries.