At The Chef’s Garden, we get asked a lot of questions about Farmer Lee Jones—and here’s one of the most commonly asked: “Does Farmer Lee really eat fresh asparagus three times a day when it’s in season and then lust for it the rest of the year?”
The answer to that 25-word question will require exactly one in response:
If you want a three-word version, here you go:
“Yes. He does.”
Rumor even has it that, at the start of spring, Farmer Lee Jones heralds the arrival of fresh asparagus like he’s the town crier belting out a proclamation far and wide for all to hear. “Hear ye! Hear ye! When asparagus is in season, we should eat it three times a day! And, when the season is over, we should lust for it for ten months!”
(To find out if that’s true, we invite you to stop by Farmer Jones Farm on Saturdays where our asparagus is now available. As the weather warms, the days and times at the farmer’s market expand—but now is when asparagus is the reigning king. If visiting our farmer’s market isn’t practical, please call your product specialist to ask about asparagus.)
Here’s another question you might be asking: Yes, asparagus has a wonderful flavor, the perfect taste of spring, but how can Farmer Lee possibly enjoy it three times a day throughout the season?
Here’s another one-word answer: Versatility.
Versatility of Asparagus
Farmer Lee enjoys:
Bacon wrapped asparagus
Prosciutto wrapped asparagus
Asparagus stuffed chicken
Asparagus stir fry
Asparagus Soup Recipe with Pea Tendrils
Asparagus Tartine on Toasted Sour Dough Bread
Jamie Simpson’s ground asparagus butter
That can take him through the first week of the season, no problem.
Here’s the beauty of it all. This spring vegetable can be prepared in the simplest of ways or as something deliciously elegant. Your call!
All Asparagus, However, is Not Equal
At The Chef’s Garden, we grow a rainbow of fresh asparagus, from green to white, and from purple to pink—each of them regeneratively farmed for the maximum in flavor, nutrition, and quality.
This is a time and labor-intensive crop to grow, which is why increasing amounts of this vegetable are now being grown overseas, especially in Ecuador and Peru. Here’s the problem, though. Asparagus, Bob Jones, Jr. explains, starts to lose nutrients within 24 hours of being cut—and when it’s grown in farm operations outside of the United States, it can take up to two weeks to reach our grocery stores.
By the time the imported product arrives at a store—and then the store checks it into inventory and gets it on the shelves, and then you arrive to buy some a day or two later—the flavor and overall quality has had plenty of time to fade, and the nutrient value goes down.
At The Chef’s Garden, we harvest fresh upon order and then deliver your deliciously fresh product within 24 hours. Big difference. BIG difference.
Let’s use growing asparagus as an example. On our farm, we give this spring vegetable the full royal treatment, growing it slowly and gently in full accord with nature. We use regenerative farming techniques that maximize the health of our soil, including through the use of cover crops. These crops aren’t grown for people or animals to eat. Instead, their sole purpose—a noble one, indeed! —is to enrich, feed, and protect our soil so that we can grow healthy crops for healthy people and a healthy planet.
Soil is a living, breathing organism, just like we are, and it deserves to be treated with the respect it deserves. As Bob, Jr. says, “Soil needs food, air, and water to be able to be productive. And, if you really want it to be productive, you’ve got to give it rest, which is why—at any one time—two thirds of our fields contain cover crops. We’re letting the soil rest and replenish itself.”
Cover crop diversity matters, and we typically use four to six species, using seed we’ve nurtured on our farm. That way, the cover crops already have an incredible affinity for their environment.
All asparagus, as you can see, is not equal. That’s because the environment in which it’s grown—and how it’s grown—matters tremendously.
“The agony of anticipation, the luxury of abundance, and the eventual sorrow at season’s end is precisely what nature intends (so eat asparagus when you can)!” (Farmer Lee Talks About His Favorite)
After our farm team—led by Farmer Lee and his asparagus-themed megaphone—spot and celebrate the first few beautiful green shoots of this vegetable, we know that spring has truly arrived. We then take a break to cheer and share the good news.
Then it’s back to work.
We continue to nurture our asparagus plants, ensuring that they continue to be their healthiest and most flavorful best. We stand watch as the green shoots transform into spears that aren’t quite ready for harvesting into ones that are tender, snappy, and juicy—optimal for tasting. Then, we harvest our fresh asparagus by hand with love and great care.
The health benefits of asparagus, according to Healthline.com, are numerous, including how this spring vegetable is:
high in nutrients
low in calories
a good source of antioxidants
helpful with digestive health
an excellent source of folate (especially important for pregnant women)
helpful in lowering blood pressure
This spring vegetable is a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, E, and K, iron, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, and zinc.
Now, returning to the idea that not all asparagus is equal, we’re happy to report that after testing several kinds of our farm-fresh vegetables in our agricultural research lab—and then having the results independently verified—we can proudly announce that our flavorful vegetables have been shown to have 300 to 600 percent more in nutrients than the USDA baseline.
A Look Back in Time
People have treasured asparagus for thousands of years. In fact, a simple asparagus recipe is included in De re coquinaria, Book III, by Apicius—which is the oldest surviving recipe book, published in the third century, C.E.
To have it “most agreeable to the palate,” the stalks “must be peeled, washed and dried, and immersed in boiling water backwards.” (Note inserted by Chef Jamie Simpson: “Peeled? Quality asparagus doesn’t need to be peeled!”)
Just for fun, here’s a 19th century recipe that’s included in Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management: Asparagus Pudding, a “delicious Dish, to be served with the Second Course.”
½ pint of asparagus peas
Two T. of flour
One T. of very finely minced ham
One oz. of butter
Pepper and salt to taste
Cut up the nice green tender parts of asparagus, about the size of peas; put them into a basin with the eggs, which should be well beaten, and the flour, ham, butter, pepper, and salt. Mix all these ingredients well together and moisten with sufficient milk to make the pudding of the consistency of thick batter; put it into a pint buttered mould, tie it down tightly with a floured cloth, place it in boiling water, and let it boil for 2 hours; turn it out of the mould on to a hot dish, and pour plain melted butter round, but not over, the pudding.
Asparagus and Royalty
“Pharaohs, emperors, kings, generals, and great spiritual leaders, princely poets such as Goethe and gourmands like Brillat-Savarin—all of them ate and eat asparagus with great enthusiasm.” (A Curious History of Vegetables)
Ancient royalty really was fascinated with this spring vegetable. Legend shares how Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus organized groups of elite military men to seek it out (which seems like a reasonable plan to Farmer Lee and the rest of us at The Chef’s Garden). The fastest runners then raced the fresh spears into the frozen Alps, their form of refrigeration.
Ancient Greeks considered this to be a sacred vegetable—and in Boeotia, it was part of an important ritual: “after veiling the bride, they put on her head a chaplet of asparagus; for this plant yields the finest flavoured fruit from the roughest thorns, and so the bride will provide for him who does not run away or feel annoyed at her first display of peevishness and unpleasantness a docile and sweet life together.”
Egypt’s Queen Nefertiti was believed to love asparagus and this plant appeared on an Egyptian frieze about five thousand years ago. When the Pyramid of Sakkara was excavated, dishware contained traces of asparagus.
Ancient China? Honored guests were given an asparagus footbath.
When poet Apuleius fell into love with Pudentilla, he needed to dazzle the wealthy widow. The solution? A special asparagus dish that also contained crab tails, fish eggs, bird’s tongue, and dove blood.
When Emperor Charles V stopped by, unannounced, chefs needed to create something amazing, STAT. The answer? Three different asparagus recipes, presented on plates with perfumed cloths.
When people wanted to please the Sun King, Louis XIV, one way was to give his wife a new asparagus recipe.
When you want to treat your diners like royalty: asparagus, asparagus, asparagus.
We Look Forward to Serving You!
Please contact your product specialist to discuss the colors, sizes, and quantities you need. Thank you!