May 9, 2008

Show and Tell Friday is here..Our Vintage Asparagus!

I bet most of you have never seen asparagus from 50 + year old plants.

Bob went out to several old fence rows in the country yesterday and found about 14 lbs! I don't know what you are paying for asparagus right now...but here, in the stores, they are asking over 4.00 a lb. These asparagus plants have been there longer than most of us, left over from the farmers that grew it for DelMonte many years ago.

Our folks had 2 commercial asparagus fields that provided a source of income for years and also supplied a good vegetable for the table. There were five children to feed and we all helped pick asparagus. Every year in April, dad would sharpen the knives and get the asparagus boxes lined up for the cannery. We would get up anywhere from 4-5 am and all go out into the field to cut asparagus. It was cut at an angle and placed into wooden boxes...a back breaking job, even for younger kids that weren't far from the ground. I remember my sister Karen and I fighting in that field..who would get the longest row to pick, or had t do more work..ha ha. One of the benefits though, was when all done, Dad would let us have some to take around town in our wagon to sell. we would weigh it out on a scale and wrap it in one pound packages in newspaper. We got 25 cents a lbs and always sold out. Today's market would be fantastic! After our obligations were met to the cannery, we would then pick asparagus for mom to either can or freeze. we did about two wash tubs full at this time and of course, in season, we had asparagus almost every night...a good thing we loved it so! Here are some good recipes.
My sister Helen wrote recently .."Spring is on the way, reminding me of the asparagus picking. Rainy and warm weather really made the best asparagus. We would get so muddy; and I think I remember we would even shed out shoes to go out there?, we loved going barefoot most the summer anyway. Dad would load it up and haul it to Ashton where a guy would weigh it. I don't know if he paid Dad on the spot; probably did. The the fellow then took it on to Rochelle to the canners. Mom said she even drove the car to Ashton once; hard to imagine how she got there and back without an accident. She said she drove to Amboy once also; a shame she never learned to drive but then probably a blessing as when she got older she would have been on the road all the time(LOL). We never would have been able to keep up with her.!"
Mom's Asparagus
This was one of my favorite dishes as we grew up and is still my favorite. Mom would take a couple bunches (2 lbs) and cut it up into about 1 inch pieces, removing the tougher ends...she would say..if a knife doesn't slice through it easily, it will be stringy..don't save that part. we always picked our asparagus fresh, so we didn't have many old "tough" ends to discard. Adding this to hot boiling water on the stove, she would cook it until a bright green and tender stage..not mushy though..over cooking removed the wonderful flavor of asparagus. She would add butter, salt and pepper, and pour a little( about a cup) milk or cream over it..once that was heated up and the butter melted, it was ready to serve. we never had left overs when it came to asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus
Preheat grill for high heat.

Cut off dry ends from the asparagus, soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Lightly coat the asparagus spears with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Grill over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or to desired tenderness.
Turn or roll the spears and be careful not to burn them.
Asparagus Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped sweet onions
1 bay leaf
1 pound asparagus, roughly chopped (bottoms and scraps are fine)
4 cups stock or water
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
Plain yogurt to garnish
In a heavy soup pot, add the oil, onions, bay leaf and asparagus. Season the vegetables well with salt and white pepper. Cook gently over medium heat until the onions an asparagus are very soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer; cook 5 minutes more. Stir in peas; remove from heat and remove the bay leaf. Transfer soup to a blender; blend until very smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste. For extra smooth soup, or if the asparagus bottoms were especially woody, pass the pureed soup through a strainer . Serve warm or chilled, garnished with a spoonful of plain yogurt.
Asparagus Wraps..Using lightly toasted bread, or wraps, spread softened cream cheese onto one slice, add three cooked and seasoned asparagus spears, some crumbled bacon and grated cheese, as desired.. roll it up and enjoy!Creamed Asparagus Over Toast
..Cook asparagus as above. drain and add 2 cups milk, butter and heat..slowly add a little flour to thicken and season with salt and pepper..We would serve this over warm toast.

Through Thick and Thin
Asparagus comes in several sizes, ranging in diameter from thinner than a drinking straw to fatter than your thumb.
The tiny, tender spears come from very young asparagus plants, and the fatter spears derive from older plants. The baby spears can be sautéed, or rubbed lightly with olive oil and grilled.
The fatter spears will need to be trimmed and either steamed or boiled in order to be tender. The cooks of the world have been debating for ages over which is more delicious: thin asparagus or thick.
While some people prefer the smaller spears for their delicacy and tenderness, others prefer the fatter ones for their more robust flavor and a meaty texture they can really sink their teeth into.
How to Buy and Store Asparagus
Whatever size you chose, look for firm, brightly colored stalks with tightly closed tips.
Asparagus begins to lose its sweetness as soon as it's picked, so try to cook it as soon as possible after you buy it.
If you do plan to store it in your refrigerator for a few days after you get it home, treat it like a bouquet of flowers: trim a small amount from the bottoms of the stalks with a sharp knife and place them in a tall glass with a little water in the bottom. Cover the top loosely with a plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator. This will keep the stalks firm and crisp until you are ready to cook them.
The health benefits of eating asparagus
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