Asparagus means spring.
I wait all year for the window of local, ripe asparagus, which lasts only a few precious weeks, or one full month, if we’re lucky.
To confess, I used to buy grocery store asparagus from California, Florida, Mexico or Holland, during the winter months when I was desperate for warm mornings of dewy grass and the flapping sound of flip-flops, but I was always disappointed. It just didn’t taste right. It was flavorless and limp.
The lesson: I learned to wait, patiently, for spring season. Like our ancestors did before the industrial food revolution. When they grew asparagus in their backyards.
While a part of me is very suspicious of the high temperatures we had this spring, I gasped, clapped and broke down into a killer club dance when I received an email from Homestead Gardens, the gardener from which I get my local produce, that asparagus was available by half-pound increments. Attempting to use all my wiles as a writer and foodie, I ordered two pounds. Justifiably, my request was denied. It was only the end of March; after all, asparagus usually sprouts near the end of April. There was no reason to be greedy in this pre-season.
After I received my first half-pound, I knew I had to save it for something special. When two of our very dear friends were in town the next day, I roasted my first order of asparagus in addition to a whole chicken, some heirloom carrots and mashed potatoes with Dijon mustard and fresh parsley (from Homestead Gardens). I’m usually over-critical of the meals I make, but, for once, I was completely satisfied. The flavors were spot on, the wine pairing was perfect and I was ecstatic to have some quality time with guests I consider to be family.
As much as I adore asparagus, it does have its faults. It makes your pee smell pungent. It’s sometimes tough or stringy. It’s sometimes too thick or too thin. Most times it tastes good and other times not so much. I imagine Shakespeare would call it “fickle.”
But asparagus has an understandable temperament: “I sprout in spring; you have a month, so make the most of me.”
And I do. For that month I over-indulge in asparagus. I make batches of asparagus pesto, asparagus soup and asparagus butter, but no recipe ever tastes as good as fresh roasted asparagus right out of the oven or off the grill. Maybe the only rival is asparagus in a stir-fry with garlic sauce.
Ring in spring with some local, fresh asparagus. I promise you and your family will be satisfied, and your guests will be decidedly pleased with your seasonal produce.