ASPARAGUS and RHUBARB

Asparagus

Pick your own asparagus begins some time in very early May and continues until mid June. Asparagus grows very fast and needs to be picked at exactly the right stage. One day too soon or too late may result in decreased quality. To provide our customers the best possible quality from a planting of modest size, we sell asparagus by appointment. Experience has taught us that this is the most effective way to get our customers quality asparagus in the amounts they want.

Once picked, asparagus loses flavor very rapidly. Refrigeration helps a little. But because asparagus grows well at low temperatures, metabolic processes just keep on using up the sugar, even in the refrigerator. As a child, Karen couldn't understand why anyone would choose to eat asparagus. Only after she tasted fresh asparagus straight out of the garden did she discover that she likes it. Chris's technique for preparing the best asparagus for supper is to put the kettle on to boil, and then pick the asparagus. It really needs to be fresh for full flavor. Although this technique may not be practical for our customers, for real fresh asparagus flavor, we do recommend that asparagus be used (eaten, frozen, pickled, etc.) as soon after harvest as possible, surely within 24 hours.

How to Pick Asparagus

Asparagus is ready to pick when the stalk is at least as tall as the span of your hand. Put the tip of your little finger on the ground at the base of the spear. Spread your fingers. If the tip of the spear is taller than your thumb, it is ready to pick.

To pick the asparagus spear, grasp the stem at the ground. Push sideways, gently, and slide your fingers up the stem until it breaks. The woody part of the stem -- the tough part you don't want to eat -- will bend. The tender part of the stem breaks. By sliding your hand up the stalk until the stalk breaks, you are picking the asparagus right at the very bottom of the tender part.

To arrange for an appointment, call 608.798.2286 or email farm@thetreefarm.net. Please watch our "today" page to see when we are ready to start selling asparagus in the spring.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a hardy perennial. The tops die down after a hard freeze each fall. Large leaves and flower stalks sprout from fleshy roots each spring. The edible part of rhubarb is the petiole, that is, the stem that bears the leaf. Rhubarb petioles are typically one to three feet long and up to two inches wide. They are picked by grasping the petiole near the ground and simultaneously twisting and pulling gently. The leaf is then cut off of the top of the petiole.

Rhubarb may be ready to harvest as early as May 10. Although it grows all summer long, the quality is best in the spring. We usually end the rhubarb harvest about mid June. For the rest of the summer the plants grow and store energy in their roots. It is this stored energy that provides the plants the strength for a bountiful harvest the following spring.

We think that rhubarb is seriously underrated and underutilized! Even its name is ridiculed. But, that doesn't keep it from providing a real taste treat! Rhubarb sauce (served over ice cream or pancakes) is one of our favorites. We also enjoy rhubarb pie and rhubarb cheesecake.

How To Pick Rhubarb

Grasp the petiole -- that's a fancy word for what most of us call a stem or stalk. The cross section of the petiole will be U shaped. Put your thumb in the groove, run your hand down to the ground, twist slightly and pull sideways to break the stalk at the ground. With a sharp knife, remove the leaf and discard the leaf. The leaf is toxic. You don't want to eat the leaf and it makes a good mulch around the rhubarb plants.

The stalks you want to pick have one leaf at the very top of the stalk. If you encounter a round stem with multiple leaves coming off the sides and flowers or flower buds at the top. Please cut that off at the ground and discard it.

Recipes

Rhubarb Sauce

3 cups rhubarb cut into 1 inch chunks
1 to 2 cups sugar (to taste, Chris likes a ratio of 5 rhubarb to 2 sugar)
Heat together in large kettle over low heat, stirring frequently until mixture boils. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve hot or cold.

Rhubarb Pie

Bake at 400 degrees F. for 40 to 50 minutes
Pie crust (use your favorite) for a two crust pie
Substitute orange juice for water in the pie crust (optional)

Filling:
3 cups chopped Rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel (optional)
3 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoons butter or margarine (optional)

Rhubarb is available for sale by appointment. Please follow the "today" page to know when the rhubarb is ready and contact us for an appointment.

The Tree Farm
The Pick-your-own Vegetables Place
www.thetreefarm.net
In Northwestern Dane County, Wisconsin, serving Madison and the surrounding area
8454 State Road 19
Cross Plains, WI 53528

608.798.2286

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Updated May 07 2017

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