Washington’s King of Spring
Come late spring and early summer, the dinner tables of Washingtonians will be accompanied by one of our favorite fresh vegetables – asparagus. Washington leads the United States in asparagus production. We visited Columbia Valley Farms in Pasco to learn more about how asparagus is grown and processed.
Why is Washington ideal for growing asparagus?
The hot summer days with cool nights, coupled with the mineral-rich sandy soils of the Columbia Basin, makes for excellent asparagus-growing conditions. Our state's hardworking farmers hand-harvest asparagus from early April into the third week of June in a typical growing year. Currently, there are around 4,500 acres of asparagus grown in Washington each year.
How do farmers cover all of those acres?
Harvesting asparagus is an extremely labor-intensive task. There are no machines designed to pick asparagus, so it’s all done by hand. The plants are cut one by one at the base and then transported to a processing facility. Asparagus fields have to be harvested nearly every day to ensure that fragile new growth is harvested at the right time.
Where does all that asparagus go?
Seventy-five percent of Columbia Valley Farm’s asparagus is fresh packed and sold to consumers all over Washington and the U.S. The other 25% is jarred and pickled. The fresh asparagus spears are tightly packed into jars with various spices and covered in a saltwater and vinegar solution. This makes for a delicious snack any time of the year.
How do I get some of that asparagus?
Chances are you already have! Washington asparagus is sold in grocery stores around the country. If you're more interested in the pickled varieties, Foster’s Pickled Asparagus is available in stores across Washington state and is offered in multiple flavors.
The next time you find yourself in the produce section reaching for asparagus, think about the many hands that touched that bunch of spears before your own. Delightful when grilled or sautéed, perfect when incorporated into a quiche, and tasty when pickled, asparagus is a versatile option for any mealtime. Go forth and enjoy the bounty of Washington asparagus while
appreciating the hard work it takes to get it from the field to your table.