Now more than ever, it is essential to support Canadian farmers. The Covid-19 pandemic has hit them hard, with many farmers reporting higher than usual stress and anxiety levels. Supporting our local farmers and buying Canadian grown produce is the best way to strengthen our communities and ensure Canada’s agriculture sector’s sustainability.
Nothing says springtime to me like fresh, locally grown asparagus. There are so many delicious ways to prepare these tender green spears; lightly steamed and served with melted butter, grilled on the barbeque, or pureed into a cream of asparagus soup.
Asparagus is a nutrient-packed vegetable, high in fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. It’s also low-calorie and packs 4 grams of protein and 400 mg of potassium in each one cup serving. Canada’s cooler climate is perfect for these plants, with farms from coast to coast growing these plants; from Armstrong Asparagus Farm in British Columbia to Mazak Farms in Ontario all the way to A-OK Farms on Prince Edward Island. In May, peak growing season, an asparagus plant can grow up to 10 inches in 24 hours.
Asparagus has been grown for over 2000 years for both food and medicinal purposes. In the past, people believed that eating asparagus before a meal would refresh and open the liver, spleen and kidneys. They also believed it to be good for the eyes. Asparagus was once thought to cure bee stings, toothaches, heart trouble and maintain good eyesight.
One of my favourite ways to use asparagus is in this delicious risotto that I adapted from Rose Reisman “Rose Reisman’s Family Favorites”. It’s a go-to dish for me when I’m entertaining (back when that was a thing!) and I want something that will impress my guests but that is easy to prepare.
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 4 cups chopped mushrooms
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup chopped asparagus (cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- pinch of salt and pepper
Preparing the Ingredients
- Chop onions and garlic
- Clean and chop mushrooms
- Wash and chop asparagus
- Grate parmesan
Putting it all together
- Heat oil over medium-high heat
- Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes or until the onions are just tender and lightly browned.
- Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 8 minutes or until the mushrooms are no longer wet
- Add the arborio rice and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add 1 cup of the stock and simmer until the stock has just been absorbed.
- Continue adding 1/2 cup stock at a time, stirring until absorbed; repeat until all the stock has been used (about 20 minutes in total).
- Add the chopped asparagus with the last 2 cup stock and cook until the asparagus is tender-crisp, about 3 minutes, and the liquid is absorbed.
- Add all but 2 Tbsp of the grated Parmesan cheese and the salt and pepper and mix well.
- Garnish with the remaining Parmesan. Serve warm.
Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.