Doug and Elna Edgar’s family has been been raising cattle and growing grain in Innisfail, Alta., since 1907. As the agricultural business in the prairies began to evolve in the ‘80s, they embarked on an experiment in diversification and planted an acre of asparagus. It turned out that Alberta’s sunny days and cool nights are ideal for the crop, producing purple-tipped spears indicating a high level of natural sweetness. Every spring Doug, Elna and their daughters Keri and Angie harvest 21 acres of asparagus, hand picking each spear to sell at local farmers’ markets and their farm stand, along with peas, beans, Angus beef, preserves, pies and more. They’ve shared a favourite family recipe of simply marinated asparagus that makes for perfect picnicking.
1 lb (440 g) fresh asparagus
1 tbsp (15 ml) sesame seeds
2 tbsp (30 ml) canola or other mild vegetable oil
2 tbsp (30 ml) rice vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) orange juice
2 tsp (10 ml) soy sauce
1/4 tsp (2 ml) red chili flakes
1/4 tsp (2 ml) sesame oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly grated ginger
1. Snap the ends off the asparagus where they naturally break.
2. Toast sesame seeds in a small skillet set over medium heat; stir frequently until fragrant and just barely golden. Watch carefully so that they don’t burn. Set aside.
3. Bring an inch or two of lightly salted water to boil in a medium skillet, add asparagus and cook for 5 minutes, or just until tender-crisp. Immerse asparagus in ice water to stop the cooking action. Pat dry and arrange on a platter.
4. In a blender, combine the dressing ingredients and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour the dressing evenly over asparagus, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
Adapted from edgarfarms.com
Originally published in ParentsCanada, July 2012