Asparagus - 2 bunches! - from Prairie Wind & Mick Klug Farms, St Joseph, MI
Hello to you from the farm!
This week wraps up our spring asparagus season, which is always bittersweet. We love to grill, steam, roast or simply eat asparagus and as one of the first crops of the spring season, its hard to say goodbye for a year. However, the combination of very warm temperatures and lack of rainfall mean that we're instead focusing on letting the growing walkways to thrive. The milkweeds, clover and buckwheat will soon take over the asparagus fields providing pollinator strips -- or pollination power-up stations as the boys call them -- for monarchs, bees and a variety of insects.
Farming in concert in nature means that we're not only managing crops but we're also managing the biodiversity of the farm including hedgerows, native habitats and even surprising animal adaptations.
After the productive summer and winter squash harvests from this field in 2020, Jeff placed these soils into a cover crop mix of vetch and winter peas from fall to early summer. Vetch and peas are both legumes and also have the ability to take nitrogen from the air and "fix" it into the soil. Together, these two crops provide most of the fertility and nutrients needed for the fall broccoli, carrot and beet crops. Isn't it amazing how plants provide for each other?
Since the soil in this field was thoroughly nourished, Jeff began to transition this field on Monday. First, we did a round of checking to see if anything was living in the lush growth and sure enough! He stumbled upon the lush spot where a mallard duck had nestled and laid its eggs into the safety of the tall plants. Never fear, he left an island of cover crop and ducks nest so the ducklings can hatch and relocate themselves when ready.
The lack of rainfall (less than an inch since the start of April) means that these areas of biodiversity shine and they are even more important sources of food and habitat. Our asparagus crops are not irrigated as we maintain "living mulches" to capture and keep the moisture within the soil instead of evaporating. Many of our perennials, like elderberry and food forest shrubs, benefit in the same ways from the cover crops or living mulches that they were planted into. The farm crew enjoys harvesting with some of the shade provided by the biodiversity surrounding our fields like willow hedgerows, which also serves as habitat for small animals in the evenings.
So while the asparagus plants rest, we'll continue to plant successions of summer crops each week and keep to our nightly watering routines. We can't wait to bring back those cherished summer flavors we've all been missing!
Enjoy this week's final spring harvest, ~ Jen, Jeff and the Farm Crew
Notes from the Farm Kitchen
This week members will receive a new crop for us called sprouting broccoli or broccolini. This young broccoli relative is tender, flavorful and is delicious steamed, sautéed, grilled, stir-fried, and eaten fresh. While generally harvested just for stems and florets, we've included the broccolini greens and stem as they are equally as delicious and packed with nutrients -- some consider the greens a superfood!
We suggest storing the florets and greens separately in plastic bags to keep each fresh. Try roasting broccolini with green garlic in the oven at 400 for 10-12 minutes and add to your favorite summer pasta salad. You can cook the greens as you would kales or collards.