It’s early June and I’ve been eating my fresh asparagus for about two weeks. My asparagus bed is now 12 years old. I never tire of it, steamed, blanched or roasted…pureed into a soup or on an Eggs Benedict.
Asparagus as we know it is the sprout of the Asparagus Officinalis, sometimes affectionately called sparrow grass. As with all culinary sprouts (think Belgian endive), this plant is all about the root system. The larger the root system the more it sprouts and produces the stalk we know and love. If left untended, the stalk grows and ferns out, creating a beautiful hedge and small red berries or seeds. Leaving it to grow is a surefire way to increase production for next season.
Growing asparagus requires a lot of preparation. It’s “like digging a grave” as an old and wise woman once said.” You dig a trench, add a lot of organic material, lay in your root bundles, spreading them out for best effect and then wait for a few years. Water, water, water. Seriously. At first all you’ll get is slender shoots, which you leave alone, but as the root systems develop that’s when the magic happens. It’s a long wait, then a short season. It’s no wonder that asparagus is known as a luxury!
Considered a delicacy in many cultures, Spargle, or a type of blanched, white asparagus is widely celebrated throughout Europe… especially in Germany. Festivals are held just to exalt the seasonal vegetable, which is often served topped with Hollandaise, with buttered boiled potatoes and cured ham. And beer… always good beer or a dry white wine such as a German Kabinett.
It is cooked and eaten in much the same way and it’s flavor is similar to the green, if not slightly more bitter. Sometimes with the fatter spears, the bottom part of the stalk is peeled and naturally there is a special tool for this. IF one cannot be found a common vegetable peeler will do.
Now, asparagus is not just a beautiful vegetable and plant. It is a powerhouse of nutrition offering vitamins A, C , Folic acid and plenty of fiber. Honestly, it always smells like it’s flushing something evil out of me, so I hope it is!
Try fresh poached asparagus in season on a smoked salmon Eggs Benedict topped with a tarragon flecked homemade Hollandaise. You can find this recipe under my seasonal recipe blog.
It’s a great reason to get up on a Sunday morning!