Seeing green: A celebration of local asparagus

Courtesy of Harrison Township Historical Society
The Harrison Township Historical Society’s asparagus festival will feature a variety of asparagus-themed food items, including special desserts.

The Harrison Township Historical Society will once again host the annual asparagus festival from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, at the Old Town Hall Museum on Main Street.

The festival commemorates the 102nd anniversary of the first air shipment of fresh produce in the U.S. on May 17, 1922. According to the society, that day saw 1,000 pounds of asparagus transported from Mullica Hill to Boston.

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“The festival celebrates asparagus,” said event co-chair Cindy Madara, “but it’s also about
recognizing South Jersey’s great farms and farmers that provide all of us with the freshest and best produce.”

The event will feature a variety of asparagus-themed food items, including special desserts. Asparagus for the event will be provided by Mullica Hill’s own Heiling Orchards. The Old Town Hall Museum’s featured exhibit, Last Call: Taverns and Temperance, will also be open for tours.

The centerpiece of the festival – which will have asparagus-related merchandise for sale – is the battle of the chefs, wherein five chefs and four bakers and confectioners will vie for the most savory and sweet asparagus creations of the day.

The contest will have both a dinner and dessert round. In the former, last year’s winner, Marino’s of Mullica Hill, will go up against the restaurants blueplate, David and Sons 322 BBQ, Harrison House and Naples at the Warehouse. The dessert round will feature the Cake Boutique versus Amici, Artisan Marshmallow and Mademoiselle Macaron.

“For farm-to-table restaurants in New Jersey, asparagus kicks off the farm season and the
asparagus festival is the crown jewel,” noted James Malaby, chef/owner of blueplate. “Jersey asparagus by far is the sweetest around, and it is our privilege to be able to cook with it and be a part of this event.”

Winners for each round of the dinner/dessert competition will be chosen by a popular vote that will involve a panel of guest judges. They include Action News 6 meteorologist Karen Rogers and food bloggers Marilyn and P.J. Johnson. The victors will each receive a trophy for their efforts.

Tickets for the battle of the chefs portion of the festival can be purchased at HarrisonHistorical.com. Kids ages 12 and under are free.

“If you think you don’t like asparagus,” Madara promised, “then you haven’t tasted the creations from our Mullica Hill chefs, bakers and confectioners.”

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