A few of you have emailed us lately wondering if you missed Asparagus season. It’s not a bad question — we have been wondering the same thing ourselves.

Asparagus is one of only a few perennial vegetables, the roots residing in the same field for a decade or longer. Most years, the spears start pushing out of the ground in March — early or late, depending on how warm it is — and get harvested through Apri and into May. When it starts to feel like summer here, it’s usually time to stop harvesting and let them grow up into the fern-like plants that will spend the summer and fall waving in the breeze and storing up energy until frost kills them in November or December.

This past winter was likely very confusing for the asparagus. There was almost no freezing weather in the winter to push it into dormancy. Then, right about the time it started to emerge, it got cold and stayed cold. The few spears that had pushed up in late March got “burned” by the frost in early April.

To make matters even worse, the long wet period from early January through March made it impossible to cultivate the weeds in the field. Organic growers rely on cultivation (instead of herbicides) to provide the weed-free beds that allow the sunshine — if there is any — to warm the soil and encourage the roots to push more spears. By the time it dried out in April, we had to knock down 2 foot high weeds. This also destroys any asparagus that is emerging, setting harvest back 10-14 days.

So it is that this week marks the opening of Asparagus season in this parts — the lastest ever that I can remember. The later we start, the shorter the season lasts. While it looks like it will stay cooler at least through mid-May, summer always comes here in June.

You are probably aware that most of the Asparagus available in retail outlets, even in California, comes from thousands of miles away. That’s partly a result of its transformation from a highly seasonal crop to one that is always available in the supermarket — a goal that was achieved by growing it all over the world. It’s always spring somewhere.

But it’s also due to how incredibly labor intensive asparagus is to harvest, one spear at a time. With farms in California now paying a minimum of $16 per hour to their employees, it is impossible to compete with asparagus farmers in Mexico and other countries where wages are just a few dollars a day.

We get our asparagus from Durst Organic Growers in nearby Esparto. While we have grown asparagus over the years, we have never figured out how to do so without losing money. I hope the Dursts can keep figuring out how to do it.

There’s a short window this year to enjoy locally grown, organic Asparagus. It’s unquestionably better quality than the stuff you’ll get most of the time in the stores.

Thanks,

Pablito