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Anticipating asparagus

A delta favorite is back—full of great taste, nutrition and culinary potential.



Each year when spring rolls around in California, there are many things to look forward to. For instance, flowers bloom and asparagus sprouts—the latter being a highly anticipated delicacy to most dinner tables.

Asparagus thrives in many districts around California, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. For three generations, the Nichols family has worked passionately in the heart of the delta to make Victoria Island Farms in Holt, just west of Stockton, one of the largest producers of premium asparagus in the state.

The asparagus ferns gather energy and nutrients from the summer sun, then sit dormant in the fall and winter. But as soil temperatures warm in the spring, the asparagus crowns underground become active and the bright green stalks emerge. They can even sprout as much as 10 inches in just one day! During peak season, nine is the magic number. Crews survey each row of asparagus, searching for spears that are 9 inches tall and with tight tips—they’re ready for harvest. The asparagus is then bundled and picked up by another crew and packed neatly onto a trailer before making its way to the processing facility.

The processing begins just a few minutes from the field. There, teams work in unison to prepare the day’s harvest for quick shipment. First the stalks are sorted by size and length, and go through several wash cycles before being packaged and cooled. Then they’re sent to some of your favorite grocery stores, where several different sizes may be available for you to enjoy at home that night.

For maximum asparagus flavor, try storing the spears in the coolest part of your refrigerator with the base of the spears wrapped in a damp paper towel.

This versatile veggie is loaded with a long list of vitamins and is delicious steamed, broiled, roasted, deep-fried and tossed into stir-fries and pasta. At Palermo Ristorante Italiano in Elk Grove—just a few miles from where the asparagus is grown—Chef Giovanni Toccagino puts the spears to good use. He uses them in a variety of dishes, including one of his most popular—gnocchi.

“I couldn’t ask for a better, more local product than asparagus,” the chef said.

For more information about Victoria Island Asparagus, visit www.victoriaislandfarms.com.

For more information about Palermo Ristorante Italiano, visit www.palermo-ristorante.com.


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