4/27/2013 7:00 AM
By Michael Short Delaware Correspondent
WYOMING, Del. — Dozens of people hungering for a first taste of spring came to an asparagus peak party at Fifer Orchards on Saturday, April 20.
Asparagus, that much-maligned harbinger of spring, was everywhere on Saturday. There were asparagus samples, asparagus tastings and asparagus sales. There was grilled asparagus paired with chicken sausages, asparagus crabmeat bisque and pork tacos with asparagus guacamole during the party sponsored by Abbott’s Grill Restaurant in Milford.
It was designed to acquaint people with what is generally considered the first spring crop on Delmarva after a long winter and a reluctant spring.
Mike Fennemore of Fifer’s said the fourth-generation family business holds peak parties each year for asparagus, blueberries and sweet corn.
Fifer’s, best known for its peach and apple orchards, hosts strawberry festivals, peach ice cream days and fall harvest days, but the peak parties are considered more modest affairs featuring face painting, tastings, free samples, hayrides and petting zoos.
The peak parties show people how to prepare fresh foods and acquaint them with peak produce seasons, Fennemore said.
“We try to show folks there are a lot of different ways to prepare asparagus ... It’s not just for adults. I have a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old, and they both enjoy it if it’s done the right way.
“It’s the first taste of spring,” Fennemore said. “The key is to educate people that there are different ways to use it.”
Asparagus was once a major crop on Delmarva, fueled by canneries that dotted the landscape from the 1930s to the 1950s. Those canneries bought tomatoes, lima beans, asparagus and other local vegetables.
But the canneries have largely died away and asparagus has declined as a major crop, despite the nearly perfect sandy soils in Delaware. One reason may be that asparagus is a very labor-intensive crop, because each single spear must be cut by hand.
Asparagus can produce a crop each spring for approximately 20 years, and asparagus spears can grow about 10 inches in a 24-hour period. For about six weeks, it can be harvested every day or nearly every day.
Fifer Orchards is known for its peach ice cream day, something that has been a tradition for the last 33 years, according to Fennemore. Fall activities like corn mazes and cider presses were already popular and the spring strawberry festival was drawing good crowds.
So, Fennemore said Fifer decided to add the peak party days. The blueberry party, which includes pick-your-own berries, is on June 22, and the sweet corn party is scheduled for July 13.
“We just wanted to draw attention to the peak seasons, so that people don’t show up in June and ask, Where are the strawberries?’ “ he said.
For more information, visit www.fiferorchards.com.