Recipe–Asparagus 101

I grew up eating asparagus.  In fact, we even harvested it from the wild.  During spring planting we would take my dad his dinner (mind you it was a hot meal), and often he would say, “I saw some asparagus growing along the fence row.  I think there used to be a homestead at the corner of the field back in the day.  Why don’t you kids run down there and cut some for supper.”  I grew up thinking that asparagus was mine for the cutting.  I simply could walk down a fence row in the spring and collect all I wanted.

Later my family planted an asparagus patch.  Asparagus takes 3 – 5 years before you can harvest really thick stalks, but we still had wild asparagus or asparagus from a family member’s spring garden.  We froze the extra asparagus, and I never realized what a luxury it was to have asparagus for supper any time my taste buds sang out for it.

So when I got out on my own, the realization that I had to BUY asparagus came as quite a shock.  So did the price tag.  So did the realization that store-bought asparagus could be quite stringy.  So when I get a really great bunch, I eat all of them as my kids classify asparagus in the same category as peas which is the category of “Only To Be Eaten If Threatened with the No Screens Punishment.”  Which means that they never eat them.  Which means I really don’t mind.  Which means I get to eat the whole bunch myself.  (I think I already said that.)

Now if you are feeling inspired, you can neatly tie your asparagus into a bundle with cooking twine, then drop it into your special Asparagus Steamer.  But if you live here at My Whit’s End,  just cut off the bottoms and throw them in.  Cook until they are bright green and not a second more.  The Romans had a saying, “as quick as cooking asparagus”–i.e. very quickly.

The pasta didn’t taste like asparagus, and the asparagus didn’t taste like pasta.

The rubber bands withstood the heat just fine.  Just snip and serve.

Now add a pat of butter and let it melt.  MMMMMMMMMmmmmm.  Sprinkle on some salt. . .

. . .and eat spear by spear by spear by spear. . .

asparagus dipped in hollandaise sauce

asparagus artfully decorating the top of a Quiche

homemade cream of asparagus soup

asparagus tossed with penne pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese

asparagus roasted in the oven with olive oil, garlic, and tossed with salt

Well. . .I can keep dreaming.

Back to reality.  Here are some interesting asparagus Nuggets of Knowledge.

  • Asparagus is part of the lily family.  Doesn’t that sound romantic?  Unfortunately onions and chives also share this distinction.
  • Asparagus is one of the few perennial vegetables.  If onions count as a veggie, they also share this distinction.
  • Ancient Egyptians cultivated asparagus.  Julius Caesar loved it.  Many emperors considered it such a “must” that they had an “Asparagus fleet” that provided them with fresh asparagus.  (My guess is that the Asparagus fleet also brought other provisions.)
  • There are about 300 varieties of asparagi  (it isn’t spelled that way, but it should be), but only 20 are edible.  North Americans prefer the green varieties, Northern Europeans the white varieties (just grown without light i.e. by piling up soil next to the spear as it grows), and Italians grow a purplish variety.
  • Asparagus can grow as much as 5 inches in 20 hours!!!
  • Most asparagus plants can live for about 10 – 15 years.  Asparagus can be grown from seed, but is usually bought and planted as a “crown.”  Plant in the spring about 5 – 6 inches deep in well-drained soil.
  • Asparagus plants are either male or female.  Both can be eaten, with the male plants being a bit thicker and more tender.  Most articles suggested growing only male asparagus.  Various authors mentioned that the female plants propagate and can cause an “asparagus weed problem.”  I take offense to that sexist comment and being very non-sexist and politically right, would say that I find both plants to be equal in intelligence and should get paid the same amount for their growing efforts.  Therefore, if you should happen to find MALE ONLY asparagus being sold for a higher price than FEMALE ONLY asparagus.  Please IMMEDIATELY contact your local Asparagus Action Association.  Lobby.

Okay, I’m done.  Now if you picked your own asparagus this morning, you won’t need this time-saving tip.  You can also keep all your comments to yourself as I am immensely jealous, and you don’t need to rub it in!

Actually, please do leave a comment anyway because I love ya and love hearing from ya.


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13 Responses to Recipe–Asparagus 101

  1. Dad and Mom Whit says:

    I LOVE it as it grew in Walla Walla where I grew! Only in my house now, I must eat it alone – Well, if it isn’t too well done I might have another taker who very graciously will join me. I like your idea of the rubber bands. Hadn’t thought of that.


  2. Bel McCoy says:

    My memory of “wild asparagus” is also from Walla Walla…We learned that asparagus fields would stray out into
    the ditches beside the roads and wouldn’t be harvested with the rest of the field. One time we picked a whole big
    box of it and took it to Uncle Irvin and Aunt Gladys’ house where we were staying and all enjoyed a huge pot of it.
    Not sure it was cooked “just a bit” where it would be bright green. 😦 At the cost of it, we best cook it very little
    and enjoy it to the utmost!! A bit of Best Foods mayonaise is fine for dipping.


  3. Bel McCoy says:

    Your pics make me drool for some!!!


  4. Elizabeth Roossinck says:

    We (even the kids) Love it! I always drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook on the grill. However I do NOT like it after being frozen. Perhaps if someone gave me a better way of preserving it I would enjoy it all year and even grow it myself. 🙂


  5. Debbie Frewing says:

    I love asparagus too!! Sometimes I’ll saute it w/ a little bit of Yoshidas sauce or with butter and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan! I just wish we had it year-round. Have never tried freezing it….


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