Asparagus season . . . one of the best times of the year

Asparagus is such a strange form of vegetation.

Is it a weed? It is a vegetable? Is it a flower (because I read that it is a member of the lily family)?

I don’t care what it is . . . I just love it.

In my household, we literally eat it at least once a week, sometimes more . . . and when it is in season, there really doesn’t need to be anything else in the kitchen.

And us asparagus addicts know asparagus season is just right around the corner as I am already hearing reports how the esteemed spring discovery is popping up.

Mostly I love it steamed with a blend of seasonings – clean and simple.

And there’s something about eating asparagus and poached eggs . . . especially with brown rice, hot sauce and black beans. I know, to some that might sound odd, but it’s quite amazing. It looks horrifying, tastes incredible.

Then there’s creamed asparagus which I learned to love when I was a kid. It’s the theory of chipped beef on toast aka shit on the shingle . . . just without the beef and with asparagus as the star. It’s a simple white sauce with pieces of asparagus over toast or biscuits or whatever you want that shingle to be. I remember a grandma of mine would then sprinkle just a little bit of dried mustard over the whole mess . . . and paprika for a color kick. Fantastic.

Of course, you can wrap asparagus with bacon and throw it on the grill.

Or add it to eggs benedict (which is basically heaven on a plate).

Another favorite way to consume asparagus is the low fat extravaganza which is asparagus salad – simply blanche asparagus and add it to whole wheat penne pasta, cut-up cherry tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, green onions, parmesan cheese and a little bit of low fat Italian salad dressing.

And then there’s creamed asparagus soup . . . just simmer asparagus, a little garlic, a little onion, maybe a little broccoli in some chicken stock. When the vegetables are tender, cool it down and puree the whole thing. Add in cream (or whole milk), some cheese (your choice) and warm it up. That’s it. The only thing left to do is eat it. Or put in some thickener and eat it over mashed potatoes (not kidding, it’s crazy good).

I’ve never gone asparagus hunting, but I sure appreciate those who do. I’ve been the recipient of fresh, wild-growing asparagus and those hearty stalks are amazingly not woody.

With the guidance of my gardening guru, Eilene, I even planted a patch of asparagus in a special corner of my garden a couple of years ago. It actually came up and I left it alone, like I was told to do. It actually returned the next year and my sprigs really just looked more like dill than asparagus. Fingers crossed, something cool might happen this year.

Asparagus, I understand, has had its place in history, as it was used as both a vegetable and medicine.

The ancient Greek physician Galen (prominent among the Romans) mentioned asparagus as a beneficial herb during the second century AD (according to online sources), “but after the Roman Empire ended, asparagus drew little medieval attention until a piece of writing celebrated its (scientifically unconfirmed) aphrodisiacal power.” I cannot speak to that subsequent effect of eating asparagus . . . I just think it tastes good and I haven’t witnessed any outbursts of passion.

Other ancients said it had “special phosphorus element” that counteract fatigue. I can’t confirm that either . . . seeing how I’m perpetually tired, whether I eat asparagus or not.

By 1469, asparagus was cultivated in French monasteries.

Asparagus became available to the New World around 1850, in the United States, which I greatly appreciate.

And apparently there are a lot of people around the world who herald this weed/vegetable as much as I do. The city of Stockton, Calif., holds a festival every year to celebrate it, as does the city of Hart, Mich., complete with a parade and Asparagus Queen.

Schwetzingen, Germany, claims to be the Asparagus Capital of the World and there is a weeklong celebration in the Bavarian City of Nuremberg where they have a competition to find the fastest asparagus peeler. The source of that information (also known as Wikipedia) adds that “this usually involves generous amounts of the local wines and beers being consumed to aid the spectators’ appreciative support.”

Experts say asparagus holds anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and their intake has also been associated with improved blood pressure, improved blood sugar regulation and better control of blood fat levels.

Asparagus comes in white, purple and green . . . in varying widths and lengths.

It can be plucked from the wild or grown commercially.

Oh, and it is also good for you.

Asparagus season is one of the best parts of the year, don’t you think? I even let it win by a narrow margin over sweet corn and tomato time.



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