The unofficial start of summer in Michigan is Memorial Day weekend. Whether it’s a “stay-cation” or a trip to “up north” cottages, it’s a time friends and family gather to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. At many of those gatherings, barbeque grills will undoubtedly be part of the landscape.
The menu will likely include the usual suspects, with much of it sourced in Michigan, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, deviled eggs and craft brews. But according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Spring Picnic Marketbasket Survey, higher retail prices will make that cookout a little more expensive.
When it comes to hamburgers, ground chuck is up 2 percent to $4.01 per pound on average. And the bacon to go on top of that burger is up 2 percent as well to $4.75 per pound.
“Most of the increase in the marketbasket was due to higher retail egg prices. Eggs are going to be a bit more expensive—37 percent higher than a year ago,” said John Newton, AFBF’s director of market intelligence. “U.S. egg exports were up nearly 50 percent in 2017 while egg production remained flat.”
For people a little more adventurous when it comes to grilling, a stuffed pork tenderloin will cost $2.95/lb, according to the USDA’s survey of major retail supermarket outlets in the Midwest, ending May 17. And the perfect accompaniment is what’s known in Michigan as the first fresh produce of the year – asparagus.
According to the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board (MAAB), which promotes the production and consumption of Michigan asparagus nationwide, the flowering perennial has been cultivated for thousands of years. 120 Michigan families harvest nearly 9,500 acres of land annually, yielding approximately 2,100 pounds of Michigan asparagus per acre. 60 percent of their harvest is sold fresh through May and June in local grocery stores, restaurants, farmer's markets, and at roadside markets, with a majority of it coming from Oceana County in the west central region of the Lower Peninsula.
“Michigan asparagus is what’s known as a "Clean 15" food, meaning it has a low pesticide load and is one of the safest conventionally grown crops to consume,” said John Bakker, Executive Director of MAAB.
“It’s a well-balanced vegetable that supplies a wide array of nutrients and is considered a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin, and vitamin B6. It has very little sodium and is also a rich source of rutin, a compound that strengthens capillary walls. And it’s an excellent source of folate. A 5.3 ounce serving has only 20 calories and provides 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance for folacin, which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease.”
The most common way to cook fresh asparagus is to trim stem ends slightly and boil for five to eight minutes for a crisp and tender result. Prior to cooking, keep fresh asparagus clean, cold, and covered. Trim the stem ends about 1/4 inch and wash in warm water several times. This will remove any sand trapped in the flower portion. Pat dry and place in moisture-proof wrapping. Refrigerate and use within 2 or 3 days for best quality. To maintain freshness, wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends, or stand upright in two inches of cold water.
For cooking tips and recipes, visit michiganasparagus.org.