by John Ash
from Fine Cooking #110, p. 56-61
I grew up on my grandparents’ ranch in central Colorado. At 8,000 feet, winters were pretty harsh, so you can imagine how glad we were to see the wild asparagus pop up, usually in April, with its promise of warmer days. My grandmother and I would head out to pick the bright green stalks—and eat much of our bounty right on the spot; I could never get enough of that deliciously sweet, grassy flavor.
An asparagus plant takes three years to produce harvestable spears, but once mature, it can send up 7-inch shoots in a single day. With so much at hand, my grandmother and I found all sorts of ways to prepare asparagus, eating it every day of its short season.
Fresh asparagus, when grilled, pairs deliciously with a juicy steak; it can also be shaved into long, delicate strips and tossed with greens for a crisp salad. It lends a distinctive, mild flavor to soups and can be finely chopped and used as an elegant filling for ravioli. Better yet? The perfectly shaped spears make addictively good “fries.” But no matter how you cook it, asparagus is spring on a plate, and as readily available in farmers’ markets and groceries as it is in the mountains of Colorado.
|Shaved Asparagus Salad with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts||Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce|
|Grilled Asparagus and Steak Salad with Hoisin Vinaigrette||Asparagus Fries with Smoked Paprika Aïoli|
|Asparagus and Spinach Soup with Roasted Garlic Custards|
Photos by: Scott Phillips
Green asparagus has sweet, grassy notes that become more vegetal with age. It's best from early to late spring.
Purple asparagus is sweeter, tenderer, and produces fewer stalks than green asparagus. The longer it cooks, the more likely it'll turn from purple to green in color.
White asparagus is milder than green and purple asparagus and it has just a touch of pleasant bitterness.