In Season: Asparagus

June and Craig McKenzie’s friends must be drooling in anticipation. This, the McKenzies hope, will be the Year of the Asparagus.

About 10 years ago Craig McKenzie planted a small patch of asparagus in his Jasper garden. His future wife, who had little exposure to the relatively exotic perennial in her native Yorkshire, England, fell in love with asparagus shortly after falling in love with Craig.

So much so, in fact, that Craig’s little patch of six crowns would no longer do. “I don’t do anything by half,” explained June, who, like her husband, is a certified Master Gardener. Two years ago they planted another 50 asparagus roots. Last year, they planted 50 more.

This spring, they’ll be able to harvest stalks from the 2-year-old patch. “Before, most of it got eaten before it even got into the house,” June said. “We love to pick it and eat it.”

June hopes their increased asparagus output keeps pace with their social needs.

“We’ve got more asparagus now,” she said. “But we’ve got lots more friends, too.”

If you’re not lucky enough to be a part of the McKenzies’ inner circle, don’t despair. Asparagus is arriving at farmers markets now. The season lasts only about six weeks, though, so don’t procrastinate.

Opening this week

Sweet Auburn Curb Market: The weekly outdoor farmers market returns Saturday with live music, street vendors, artists' stands and, of course, fresh local produce. The market runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays at 209 Edgewood Ave. S.E.

Weekly markets at the Avenue: Also up and running are weekly markets at the Avenue shopping centers. Supported by the Avenue, the markets feature local, sustainably produced food. Operating hours:

● Green Market at the Avenue East Cobb: 3-7 p.m. Tuesdays

● Green Market at the Avenue Forsyth: 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays

● Green Market at the Avenue West Cobb: 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays

● Green Market at the Avenue Peachtree City: 3-7 p.m. Thursdays

At local farmers markets

Arugula, beets, bok choy, braising mix, cabbage, carrots, celery, collards, collard florets, endive, escarole, fennel, green garlic, herbs, kale, leeks, kohlrabi, lettuce, pak choy, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, salad mix, spinach, baby turnips, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips Also: vegetable plants

From farther afield

Looking good: Washington asparagus, Florida beans, Florida and Chilean blueberries, California and New York cabbage, California carrots, Texas grapefruit, Chilean and Peruvian grapes, California and South Carolina greens, Chilean and Italian kiwifruit, California lemons and lettuce, Chilean nectarines, California oranges, Chilean peaches, Washington and South American pears, Florida and Mexican peppers, Chilean raspberries, Washington rhubarb, California spinach, Florida summer squash and strawberries

Coming in: California beans, Georgia cabbage, Florida cantaloupes, California corn, California and Florida eggplant, North Carolina greens, Mexican honeydew, California peppers

Variable quality: California artichokes, Mexican beans, Texas and Mexican beets, Mexican broccoli and blackberries, Florida and Texas cabbage, Texas and Mexican carrots, Florida and Mexican corn, Mexican eggplant, Texas greens, Arizona lettuce, Mexican limes, Texas oranges, Guatemalan peas, Florida and Mexican radishes, California and Mexican raspberries, California strawberries, Florida and Mexican tomatoes

From local reports, the Packer


Asparagus Gazpacho

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes Serves: 6

DeWitt Rush created this recipe while executive chef at Portofino Restaurant. It originally ran in the AJC in August 2006 — and won a Golden Whisk award that December.

Tester’s note: Start with about half the vinegar, then taste the soup before adding more. It should be tangy, but not overwhelmed by the vinegar’s acidity.

1 pound fresh asparagus, tough ends removed

1/2 pound leek tops, medium to dark green parts only, rinsed well

1 large green bell pepper, seeds and white membrane removed

1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil

4 cloves fresh garlic

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup cold water

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup champagne or white wine vinegar

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch asparagus for 20 to 30 seconds, until it turns very bright green, and then immediately shock it in a large bowl of ice-cold water. In a blender or food processor (working in batches if necessary), puree the asparagus, leek tops, bell pepper, basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and water until the soup is well-combined and smooth — or the desired texture. Add the seasoned salt, sea salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar, and pulse to combine. Adjust seasonings and thickness as desired and chill until serving time.

Per serving: 215 calories (percent of calories from fat, 77), 4 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 19 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 609 milligrams sodium.