Tender and sweet but somehow hearty enough to serve as the centerpiece of various meals, asparagus is a delicious early-spring vegetable.
Prior to harvesting, the asparagus plant already exhibits both sturdy and sensitive traits, according to Chip Arnett of Mister Spear, a supplier of gourmet vegetables and fruits based in Stockton, California. Its roots can extend as deep as 20 feet, and its stalks can grow rapidly -- up to 3 inches on a warm day. (Some growers claim that on very hot days, it's possible to watch the stalks grow.) But despite its prolific quality, asparagus is a delicate crop, which needs to be harvested by hand.
About half the nation's asparagus supply comes from California and is distributed by companies such as Mister Spear, which obtain their products from local farmers. Once they've been picked, the stalks are sorted, cleaned, trimmed, and packed for immediate shipping. Packers always leave a little extra room in the crate because the stalks may continue to grow, even after harvest.
To learn more about Mister Spear, visit misterspear.com.