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July 22, 2019

Submitted photoAsparagus is one of the many varieties of vegetables available at the weekly Hodag Farmers Market in Rhinelander.
Submitted photo

Asparagus is one of the many varieties of vegetables available at the weekly Hodag Farmers Market in Rhinelander.
6/20/2019 7:24:00 AM
A lesson on asparagus
Cassie Shefchik
Special to the River News

My Mom always says, "If you learned something new, your day's not wasted." This mantra has always been a catalyst for me because sometimes I wonder about the history of certain things. All kinds of things. I ponder: what is the history or story behind about this, that, and the other thing. Then I begin the fun task of researching. And it is fun to me.

This research on some vegetables will be limited to what we might find at the Hodag Farmers' Market. Armed with the Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, a very large dictionary (yup, I own lots of reference books), and the internet I began my search on asparagus.

The other day I began to think about what I would write about for this week's article. On Saturday I noticed a vendor had brought asparagus to the market. I like asparagus and there is a small wild patch growing up the road from my house. That's when I started to ponder if asparagus was indigenous to North America. I have now learned that it's not.

We learned in school how potatoes and tomatoes were discovered in the New World and taken back to Europe. Later I learned about Native Americans planting the Three Sisters together: beans, winter squash, and corn. All of those are from the Americas, as are peppers, sweet potatoes, and yams. Now that's eight plants that literally changed the world. Cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries are all from North America as well.

Next I mused about the beautiful rhubarb plants I have growing on my property. The first plant was retrieved from my boyfriend's mother's house. The ravages of time cause so much overcrowding the only thing we could find on that late July day, oh so many years ago, was a small rosette of the plant's former glory. It was nursed for two years before we finally were able to harvest. Now we have three big rhubarb plants! We were told they came with the boyfriend's Northern European ancestors. That fact is true but rhubarb didn't originate in Europe. It first came from China!

Lettuce and leeks came from South Eastern Europe, East Asia, and Northern Africa. Now guess what else comes from those same regions. If you guessed asparagus you would be correct.

Sometimes research takes you on a roundabout way to information you're looking into. Sometimes new information is discovered during the process. Regardless of all that, if you learned something new from this article my Mom and I are proud of you.

Come to the Hodag Farmers' Market at Pioneer Park each Saturday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. and see many vegetables and fruits that originated here or elsewhere.

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