Whilst on my shopping circuit today, I swung by the Metro Centre Market to see if any promising delectables had appeared. I was nearly ready to drive past, when I spotted some asparagus spears lurking amongst the plants. I immediately pulled into a parking space, and rushed over to the stall to see what was available. Ugh. The asparagus, up close, was clearly wilted and starting towards rot. I inquired as to its origin, and was told it was from Southern Illinois. If that's the case, it was picked last week. I excused myself to peruse the remaining plants. I reasoned that maybe there were at least some heirloom varieties hidden amongst the Better Boys.
A few feet further along, I discovered that what I had thought to be all one farmstand was in fact two. And I noticed a large bus tub filled with water and absolutely beautiful asparagus spears, firm and fresh with purple tips. I questioned the farmer - where was this asparagus from? Carlock, IL, and picked this morning, was the response I got. It shows too, looking at the beauty of the stuff. I am embarrassed to admit that in my excitement, I forgot to get the name of the farm. However, the gentleman running the stand informed me that his son had recently had him join some organization that was for locally grown produce, so I'm guessing this farm is sustainable or organic, or at the very least, part of the locavore movement.
For those of you not familiar with the term, a locavore tries to eat food grown locally, usually within 100 miles. As opposed to say, your average grocery store asparagus which is grown in California. This is bad for a couple of reasons. One, it has to be trucked in a refrigerated vehicle for a few thousand miles, using vast amounts of energy to get it to the store. Two, the nutritional value, flavor, and shelf life tend to decrease with time. Consider that from the time California asparagus is picked, it takes a week just to get it out of California and to the grocery store. Then, it probably takes another couple of days to get the asparagus from the back storeroom to the produce section. Then, a couple of days might go by before you purchase a bunch of asparagus. A few more days get added on before you cook it, and suddenly, you're eating asparagus that is over two weeks old. As opposed to the stuff at the farmers' market that was picked yesterday or today.
The quality was excellent and the price extremely reasonable, at $1.99/lb. I find it ironic that it cost me less than the case of asparagus that I received from my food supplier last week for the restaurant, which was rotting upon delivery. I fully intend to feature this asparagus on the menu for as long as it is coming in. There's no comparison.