Asparagus, We Heart You

Stockton throws a soiree for its princely spear.

SPRING'S SPEARY STAR: Practically every vegetable that springs from the earth gets its annual due in the Golden State, either via a carnival or a cook-off or a full-scale eat-a-thon. And while all, or most, vegetables are delicious (Brussels sprouts, we're rooting for you, always), not all vegetables carry equal weight. Some are best enjoyed raw, some do best bolstering other foods, and some should only ever be steamed. But only a couple can qualify as doing the heavy lifting of transporting sauces and dips and creams. The artichoke is definitely one, with its little scooped leaves, but asparagus spears are another. Thanks in part to their elongated shape these tall beauties are frequently wrapped in prosciutto and meats or cheeses; it's hard to think of another vegetable that wears a coat as often. We won't call the asparagus a mere food delivery system, though; it's a stand-out star, much associated with springtime, and it just happens to be Stockton's most famous green thing.

WHICH LEADS TO... the annual three-day festival thrown in its honor. It's a biggin' -- '80s bands regularly show up to rock asparagus-loving crowds (<-- how often we type that) and golfers and runners show to run and golf. But eating is the centerpiece activity, both in Asparagus Alley (yep, that's a place) and around the festival grounds. And what sort of asparagusian edibles will you encounter? The 2013 dish is, wait for it, Asparaberry Shortcake. Yep, things get creative, and we spied some deep-fried spears on the page as well, so we'll let that image happily carry us through the day.

Want to go? Make for Stockton anywhere between Friday, April 26 and Sunday, April 28.

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