Farmers' Kitchen—Seeing Purple

Bill Half and Ellen Gershun
Ellen Gershun and Bill Half

Written on

March 01 , 2010

Many people mark the arrival of spring with the sighting of the first robin. On our farm, the true harbinger of spring is the sight and taste of the first asparagus that noses its way out of the ground. Growing outdoors is a challenge for all farmers in the Northeast Kingdom—where, as the saying goes, one is never sure if a July frost indicates the last frost of spring or the first frost of fall. Asparagus means that spring not only has arrived but is here to stay, a cause for celebration.

When our family started farming our land in Walden in 2002, one of the first things we did was till a patch of soil for our asparagus patch. As it was late in the season, Bill called Nourse Farms in Massachusetts to place an order for asparagus crowns. Upon hearing that they only had a limited amount of green asparagus, he agreed to fill the balance of his order with Purple Passion, a variety with which we were unfamiliar. To our delight, we found Purple Passion to be sweeter and more tender than the green varieties we have grown in the past, and it has become our family’s favorite.

Now, when starting a new asparagus patch, we only plant the purple. Ellen’s only complaint is that Purple Passion turns a dark shade of green upon cooking—she would prefer to surprise guests with a cheery bowl of purple asparagus.

Bill, anxiously checking the soil once it starts to warm up, is usually the first to spy a purple asparagus tip breaking ground, and he always eats those first few raw. While Ellen enjoys the crisp sweetness of raw asparagus, she prefers to eat hers lightly steamed. But hands down, our children, Emma, Isaac, and Maya, prefer their asparagus dressed with the simple marinade below.

Photo courtesy of Harvest Hill Farm

Bill Half, with help from his wife, Ellen Gershun, and their children, grows organic vegetables and berries at Harvest Hill Farm in Walden, where the family also generates electricity through a wind turbine. In addition to running a CSA, they sell at the Hardwick and St. Johnsbury farmers’ markets and food co-ops, as well as to local restaurants. You can find their purple asparagus in late May. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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