Asparagus Season Begins in Niseko
The changing of the seasons brings a new range of fresh vegetables to Hokkaido's grocery stores and there's no better time to eat asparagus than in spring.
When Niseko's long winter is over and the snow melts, Hokkaido's asparagus farmers are among the first to harvest their produce. Starting at the beginning of May and running through to the end of June, Niseko's spring dining tables are covered green with fresh, healthy and flavoursome asparagus.
Packed Full of Good Stuff
Asparagus contains aspartic acid, which is a type of amino acid often used in energy drinks. It is proven to have a positive effect on recovering from fatigue and enhancing stamina, building immune strength, reducing blood pressure and restoring the function of the kidney and liver.
In addition, asparagus contains methyl methionine, which regulates the condition of the stomach, and folic acid, a type of vitamin that is said to be an essential nutrient for pregnant women.
A "super-food" if ever there was one!
Types of Asparagus
Niseko farmers grow several types of asparagus.
Green asparagus is most common. Grown in sunlight and with plenty of nutritional value, green asparagus can be eaten alone or, for a little extra flavour, dipped in salted mayonnaise. Equally, green asparagus goes well in a soup or in a vegetable salad.
White asparagus is similar to green but cultivated without being exposed to sunlight. It has a slightly lower nutritional value than green asparagus, but it is soft, slightly sweet and slightly bitter. Locals recommend carefully sauteing white asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, then eating in company with a Hokkaido white wine!
The most unusual is purple asparagus. The vivid purple colour is due to the fact that if contains 10 times the amount of anthocyanin than green asparagus. Harvest time is limited and small, and the precious purple asparagus is characterised by a strong sweetness. Heat will make the bright purple colour turn green, so it is recommended to slice it into a raw salad. If heat is to be applied, try shortening cooking time, cooking with lemon or another acid to prevent discolouration.
Make It Last
Asparagus is best enjoyed fresh, and will taste sweeter the fresher it is. But it is possible to keep the taste with some careful preservation.
To start with, the most important thing is not to lie asparagus horizontally, but to keep it standing upright. Wrap it in wet kitchen paper or newspaper and put it in a plastic bag, place it with the tips facing up and store it in the refrigerator.
It should keep for 4 to 5 days.
Where To Get It
Asparagus is easy to find in Niseko's local supermarkets, most of which are in nearby Kutchan.
Another great option though is to buy direct from the farmer at one of the 60 stalls at Niseko View Plaza. You'll find vegetables to be cheaper than supermarket price, so you can spend your spare change on a Niseko Gelato ice cream while you're there!
Or to really experience the spring harvest, from Sunday May 19th at Niseko Green Farm, you can pick your own asparagus and use it as a topping during a pizza making workshop!
Check out our guide to Niseko's best desserts in this article from the Experience Niseko magazine.