Popular for thousands of years, asparagus was grown in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Stories say that the ancient Romans prized the vegetable so much that they had special fleets, running it in to the tables of the privileged straight from the farm. There is also talk of it being “run” from the farms of Roman Britain up into the Swiss Alps for “freezing” in order to be available for important feasts year round. Herbalist John Girard mentioned wild asparagus in the 16th century, and it is found as far back as the 17th century in French cookbooks. The asparagus growing beds in Northern Italy were famous during the Renaissance period. In fact, these graceful spears have always been a sign of elegance, and in times past, were a delicacy only the wealthy could afford. Sounds like thanks to its short growing season, asparagus has always been a highlight in the foodie calendar. Nowadays with globalization, you can get asparagus year-round, typically shipped in from Peru, China, Mexico, & California. However, nothing tastes as good as locally harvested asparagus. So glad that Norman shares his harvest with the Southside CSA!
Not only is it delicious and nutritious, it is an easy veg to cook up. “As quick as cooking asparagus” was an old Roman saying meaning something accomplished rapidly. There are lots of classic ways to enjoy asparagus. However, it is also a really fun veg to cook creatively with; its subtle and rich flavor lends itself easily to some fun fusion dishes. Whether you eat it raw, toss it into stir-frys, crank out those risottos, pair it with eggs for a classic quiche or simple breakfast- type meal, asparagus will surely shine on your table. Below are some great ways we have been using it in our kitchen and some delicious recipes sent in/posted on the FB page by our members. (Thanks for sharing guys!!)
Shaved Raw Asparagus Salad
This has been a favorite dish being served up at our house on a regular basis with lunch and dinner. A lot of the recipes floating around out there call for topping the ribbons with a lemon vinaigrette, however we found it super flavorful au natural topped with just a little salt and pepper. It makes sense to take the time and shave the asparagus with a mandolin or a peeler. Takes a bit of concentration to get the stalks shaved nicely, so i have to admit that sometimes i just went for the quick and dirty chop chop. It was much more fancy shaved all nice like, but tasted just as delish with a coarse chopping. We have served it up as a main, topped with cheeses
and simple fruit dressings (blood oranges from mom in Cali were divinely paired with asparagus). We have also eaten it like the vegans, cherishing the fresh taste of Spring. Quickly prepped, a raw asparagus salad is a simple way to eat up your asparagus. Apparently another way to eat your asparagus raw, is as a pesto. [Although some recipes out there seem to call for the asparagus to be blanched] I have been dubious about “other” pestos after a disaster with purslane (blargh!) but the comments and pics about asparagus pestos seem to sound and look yummy.
Baby, it’s cold (& wet) outside! Sounds like time for a nice Asparagus Soup…
Just when it started to get wet and chilly, we made up a batch of asparagus soup. Gilly didnt really use a recipe, just steaming up some stalks, pureeing the asparagus with a hand-blender, and adding some cream to the mix for a rich tasting soup. Since Gilly is a brit, i will post this recipe from BBC as a basic guide. Asparagus Soup
In addition to our basic recipe, there are many ways to warm up with an asparagus soup:
- Decadence! Asparagus Soup with Basil Cream (i absolutely adore infusing dairy products with herbs for a splash of flavor)
- Asian-style. Crab & Asparagus Soup
- Vegan! Coconut Cream Asparagus Soup
- Asparagus is an important British crop. Asparagus & Stilton Soup offers up a very English flavor combo
- Michigan is another big producer of asparagus, second only to California in North American production. Check out Great Lakes Salmon Chowder for a seasonal special.
Another simple way to serve up asparagus is roasted. Simply delicious. We have been having it in burritos, with pasta, on pizza, and in sandwiches. Asparagus is quite versatile! If you get bored with that and need to get more creative with your veg, here are some great ideas sent in from some members:
- Parlez-vous francais? Check out this gorgeous (french) blog for a divine Citrus-Parmesan Asparagus dish
- If i am looking for culinary inspiration or a really good recipe, one of my fave resources is the Smitten Kitchen blog. Check out her asparagus recipes which include some great sounding ideas like asparagus with chorizo and croutons, asparagus, artichoke and shiitake risotto, and shaved asparagus .
Norman confessed he was a little tired of asparagus when he dropped off this week’s Berry share; i have to confess that i am not ready for asparagus to stop. It has been enlightening, eating it fresh from the field. I can honestly say that i have added it to the list of things i only eat in season. One more thing that i cannot justify buying from the grocery store for an inflated price but no fresh flavor. If you just cant eat another bite of asparagus, dont forget that it pickles and freezes quite well.
- Pickled Asparagus by Food in Jars. So many different pickling recipes out there. Food in Jars is one of the best resources on the internet.
- Freezing Asparagus