My mother mentioned to me the other day that asparagus was on sale at Safeway. In November! For Thanksgiving! I got all huffy, thinking about how “fresh” asapargus that arrives to your local grocery store in November is probably grown in Peru.
Peru is one of the world’s largest asparagus exporters in the world – shipping the vast majority of the tonnage to Britain. According to the USDA, Peru exported about 193 million pounds of asparagus in 2007. That volume dwarfs the rest of the world, and especially the US. Domestically, of the 366 millions pounds of asparagus grown, 80% comes from California. The rest hails from Michigan, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Delaware. So here’s the thing… California grown asparagus looks like this in November.
But it doesn’t look like this. I promise.
Asparagus is a cool season crop. In California, it is grown primarily in northern California in Contra Costa County. (Also Orange, King’s and Imperial Counties in Southern California). Where I live, (Contra Costa County) asparagus is dormant right now. As soon as it finishes dying back, I will whack it all down, throw the detrius on the compost pile, and wait.
And wait. And wait.
Then, suddenly, one day in late March or early April, a little spear will stick it’s head up. Then two, then three then dozens. You can practically watch asparagus grow… and once it gets to about a foot tall, I’ll snap it off, run in the house and saute it in a little chicken broth.
But seriously, asparagus for Thanksgiving?
Then after I did all this research about Peruvian asparagus, I went to Safeway. Just to make sure it was grown in Peru. Nope. It was grown in Calexico, California. That’s in Imperial County. It’s a smallish town bordering the Colorado River and Mexico. There are a lot of crops grown there during the winter months, since it’s too cold in Michigan and such. So, yes, you can get US grown asparagus in November. Fine. But really? If it grows in Michigan and Delaware and Massachusetts, why not wait until it DOES?