Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

What’s Fresh in April? Amazing Asparagus

Steam, boil, blanch, roast, stir fry, grill or even microwave this garden-fresh favorite. 

By Maddie Bane

Caesar Augustus was the first Roman emperor, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.

Legend has it that Caesar Augustus was quite the fan of asparagus. He would often yell, “Velocius quam asparagi conquantur!,” which means, “faster than cooking asparagus.” In today’s terms, it would translate to, “Get going already!” Augustus would actually have military units go and obtain the vegetable for him. These asparagus fleets would bring back the best varieties to Rome, and then some would be employed to carry fresh spears to the Alps. There they were frozen and preserved for later use. Today the Mediterranean perennials are a lot more accessible, especially here in the Lowcountry. The spears started to pop up in late March, giving asparagus lovers a great start to the spring harvesting season.


Have your cake and eat it too 

Being very low in calories, asparagus is a great way to get your daily vitamins and antioxidants. The veggie contains protein, fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins C, A, K, and E (cake, anyone?). It’s been shown to improve digestion, aid in pregnancy health and lower blood pressure. 

Down to the roots

In South Carolina it takes anywhere from two to four years to grow asparagus that is ready for harvesting. To begin this process, you’ll want to purchase one-year-old roots and plant them in early March, 18 inches apart and five inches deep in well-drained, loose soil. Be sure not to cover the crown, as this can prevent proper growth. As the weather heats up, the stems will grow, and more soil will need to be added around the stems. These plants will need two or three growing seasons until they’re ready to harvest in the third or fourth year. 

How to use them

You can do practically anything with asparagus — steam, boil, blanch, roast, stir fry, grill or even microwave. Much like any vegetable, asparagus can be used in salads, pastas, as a side, or even plain as a crunchy mid-day snack. No matter how you choose to cook or use it, be sure to do so within three days of purchasing for the best flavor and texture. 


Where to buy them 

Your Hilton Head Island Farmers Market

Address: 70 Honey Horn Drive

Tuesdays: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 

Farmers & Makers Market, Sea Pines

Address: The Shops at Sea Pines Center, Hilton Head 

Tuesdays: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Bluffton Farmers Market 

Address: 71 Green St, Bluffton

Thursdays: 1-6 p.m.


Where to order them

ELA’S On The Water 

Garden Wrap: Asparagus, arugula, sautéed mushrooms, tomato, goat cheese, avocado and champagne vinaigrette in a flour tortilla, served with a choice of kale salad or truffle fries. 

The Black Marlin 

Twin Filet Oscar: Twin 4-ounce filet mignons, crab, shrimp, scallop topping, hollandaise, grilled asparagus, seasonal vegetables and a baked potato. 

Frankie Bones 

Primavera Pizzetta: Asparagus, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, grilled onions and four-cheese blend on a white crust.


 LOCAL Life Test Kitchen 

Creamy asparagus and chicken pasta

Ingredients 

1 box fettuccine pasta

1 pound chicken breast, cut in
small pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed

1 1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup half and half

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions [1] Cook pasta according to package directions. During the last five minutes of cooking, add the asparagus to the water. [2] In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and add chicken, cooking until brown on both sides. Reduce to medium heat and add garlic, onion powder, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for two minutes. [3] Add chicken broth, half and half, cream cheese, and half of the Parmesan cheese. Stir until combined, and cook until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked through. [4] Add cooked pasta and asparagus, along with remaining Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. 


 LOCAL Life Test Kitchen 

Asparagus and mozzarella pizza

Ingredients 

1 pizza dough

1/2 cup of bechamel sauce or sour cream

1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped

1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced 

6 asparagus stalks, cut in half lengthwise

1 pinch italian seasoning

Olive oil

Directions [1] Heat oven as directed on the pizza dough, and spread the dough on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. [2] Top the dough with bechamel sauce or sour cream, garlic, mozzarella slices, and asparagus. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and drizzle with olive oil. [3] Cook as directed on pizza dough, or until golden brown.


 LOCAL Life Test Kitchen 

Bacon-wrapped asparagus toast with poached egg

Ingredients 

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 bacon slices

4 eggs

4 slices bread, toasted

Salt and crushed red pepper, to taste

Directions [1] Heat oven to 450 degrees. [2] In a bowl, toss asparagus with olive oil until coated, and divide the asparagus into four equal bundles. Wrap one piece of bacon around each bundle, securing with a toothpick. [3] Place the bundles on a baking sheet and roast for six to eight minutes or until bacon is browned. [4] Poach the four eggs. [5] After toasting the bread, place the asparagus bundles and poached egg on top of each slice and season with salt and crushed red pepper.