Six Acres of Asparagus

If you are like me, you get excited during those warming days when displays of fresh asparagus start appearing in your local markets, and if you happen to stumble upon J & S Produce you might just think you’ve found a little piece of vegetable heaven. J & S Produce is a little farm fifteen minutes west of Spooner, WI, on highway 70, where farmer Joe Strenke has six beautiful acres of organic asparagus. I stopped there a week ago with my mom on the way up to our cabin near Hayward, WI and between the two of us we bought nine pounds of asparagus at $3.00 a pound. While Joe washed and bundled up our asparagus, which he had picked that very morning, I chatted with him a bit and took a look around. 


He had two big coolers and a walk-in refrigerator, where he kept one pound, two pound and five pound bags of asparagus. The season usually lasts from mid-April through the fireworks of mid-summer. As for how much asparagus he sells, he prefers not to even try to keep track but he says business has been very good so far. If he had the time, he said he would have shown me the pastures out back, but he was too busy bundling up asparagus shoots. I did, however, peek around the barn and manage to get a distant glimpse through the trees of one of the asparagus pastures. It looked a beautiful spring green color in the morning sun, and I can imagine it also must be beautiful when it turns to taller ferns in the late summer followed by golden hues in the fall.


 It can be a bit of a hike to get there, but it is well worth the trip. You will be richly rewarded for the journey.  A little advice: if you think you want two pounds of asparagus buy three or four. It never fails that when I get home from a stop at Joe’s farm, I always wish I had bought more. Though this may seem like too much to eat, and indeed it may be unless you are having a big barbeque or a family reunion, be assured that asparagus does freeze well. 


Joe advised me to freeze asparagus in the following manner:

"Just leave the asparagus whole or cut them in half and throw them in freezer bags. Do not blanch, it will turn them to mush. Then when you are ready to eat the asparagus take them out and put them into boiling water for about two minutes."


Though many of us are used to just sautéing asparagus, which is always delicious, there are of course other very tasty ways to enjoy it. Last year I stopped by the farm in anticipation of a gathering I was to host and snatched up a five-pound bag of asparagus. When the party was underway I simply roasted it. It was so pure and delicious, not to mention a big hit. 


Here are three ways that I used up some of that delicious asparagus.

Roasted Asparagus

Preheat oven to 400°

Snap off the tough ends and put asparagus in a single layer on a cookie sheet

Coat asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper

Bake asparagus for about 25 min until tender but still crisp


Asparagus Panzanella (adapted from the Smitten Kitchen spring panzanella)

For the croutons:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 cups day-old bread, crust removed, cubed
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette:

  • Half a red onion or 3-4 spring onions, finely diced
  • 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons vinegar (champagne red wine or white wine vinegar)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the salad:

  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • about a dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a handful of olives, kalamata or your favorite variety
  • a smattering of capers
  • 2 teaspoons salt, give or take
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 19-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat well. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Mix the red onion with the vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes before whisking in the remaining vinaigrette ingredients: olive oil and dijon. Set aside.

Break off tough ends of asparagus and cook it in the boiling water until crisp-tender, no more than three minutes if they’re pencil-thin, more if your asparagus is thicker. Transfer it to a bowl of ice water, or rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and pat it dry.

Cut the asparagus into one-inch segments. Place everything together in a bowl large enough to toss it well and get tossing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.


Asparagus Omelet

One of the main things I am drawn to making with fresh asparagus are omelets. Although to be honest, whenever I try to do so the eggs turn to a scramble. Keeping an omelet together is a skill I have never quite mastered. It takes patience and comedic timing, things I often lack when I am hungry. But since I’m on holiday in the state of my alma mater, I decided to give it the ole college try. And with a little help from a dear friend (maybe a lot), we actually managed to omelet an omelet! The trick, we found, was the pan (a non-stick skillet works well) as well as the right proportion of egg mixture to vegetables so that the pan is covered but not too thick. 

  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms, we used Crimini but any kind would be good
  • Onion
  • Cheese, we used Gouda, which was very tasty, but sharp cheddar would also be good
  • Eggs
  • Half and half
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Butter

Chop up all your vegetables and grate the cheese. Discern how many vegetables you want remembering not to use too many. In a bowl beat the eggs with a little half and half, I usually crack 2 eggs per person. Sauté the vegetables with a generous amount of butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until slightly golden and the asparagus turns bright green, usually just a couple minutes. Reduce the heat slightly and pour the egg mixture over the cooked veggies without moving the skillet, allowing the eggs to set on the bottom (this should only take a few seconds). Sprinkle on the cheese and salt and pepper. As the eggs set, take a spatula and push the edges of the egg mixture in, allowing the uncooked eggs on top to flow underneath and make direct contact with the skillet. Repeat this process at various spots around the edge of the setting scrambled eggs. When eggs are set but still shiny, remove the skillet from the heat. The whole process should take just 2 or 3 minutes. After removing from heat, fold the omelet in half. Slide the whole thing onto a plate and enjoy.


Lizzie Holzapfel
 is a Yogi, food lover and writer. She lives in South Minneapolis and can be reached at: Her last article for SGT was: Adventures in sugaring.