Asparagus stalks us early this year!

“While asparagus is a hardy spring crop available typically mid-April through early June in Michigan, it arrived almost a month early this year,” according to Hillary Bisnett, director of the Ecology Center’s Healthy Food in Health Care program. “This crop can shake off frosts and freezes, so this warm weather followed by cold nights, below freezing, won’t hold it back. “

In the right growing conditions, asparagus can grow ten to 12 inches in 24 hours.

Earlier this spring, Bisnett was one of the speakers at the Southeast Michigan Dietetic Association’s meeting, which focused on theme of “From Plant to Table: Plant-Based Eating & Sustainability.

After the presentations, Kathy Goldberg, a registered dietitian and culinary arts specialist, and Lizzie Burt, a registered nurse and chef, from the University of Michigan Health Systems served up a vegan menu.

One of their recipes, for an asparagus-orzo salad, “was refreshing and delicious,” Bisnett said. “The recipe included roasted corn on the cob and red bell pepper, both of which can be found locally when in season for a very reasonable price, then roasted and frozen. Pulling these items out of the freezer in the spring when asparagus, arugula and herbs are growing full swing makes for an economical, healthy option.”

Asparagus Orzo Salad

Servings: 10

1 pound asparagus spears, (blanched, shocked and cut into 1 inch segments)

3 ears corn on the cob, see instructions below*

3 red bell peppers, roasted and diced**

½ cup basil leaves, chiffonade (or ribbon cut)

¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped

1 pound orzo, cooked according to package directions and chilled

1 cup arugula leaves

1 bunch scallions, sliced thin

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 ounces extra virgin olive oil

3 ounces lemon juice


*For the corn:


  1. Remove several layers, keeping about 3 or 4 layers.
  2. Pull back the remaining layers of husk, but do not remove.
  3. Remove the silk and rub down the corn with olive oil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and fold the husks back over to cover.
  5. Roast at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and all to cool.
  7. Remove the husks and slice off the kernels.


 **To learn more about roasting whole bell peppers, view the Culinary Institute of America’s simple pepper roasting video.

For the salad:

  1. Toss all ingredients together.
  2. Season to taste.

Note: If you choose to freeze your roasted peppers, layer them with wax paper and double wrap or bag them to prevent freezer damage. Shop at your local farmers market or farm stand from mid-July through October.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 312 calories; 13 g fat; 8 g protein; 44 g carbohydrates; 3 g dietary fiber; 0 mg cholesterol; 10 mg sodium.

EcoLink — April 2012
An online publication of the Ecology Center

Comments and questions are welcome.
Please send to EcoLink Editor.