I can’t get enough of asparagus, though we’ve been eating it nearly every day. I make asparagus frittata at least once a week, butter-steamed asparagus (my Dad’s recipe) nearly every day, and I crunch raw stalks down happily on my way to the house, in my always-ravenous state after a morning’s work in the gardens. And now I’ve discovered that it makes a very tasty sauce and pairs wonderfully with cheese and pasta. Score, baby.
And yet . . . I realize with a stab of guilt that I don’t deserve this bounty.
After all . . . I am an aimless asparagus planter and yanker-upper. Hear me out. My hubby recommended actually planning our tiny farm out (on graph paper, no less!) with a grand Master Plan, to span the decades of our lives, when we first moved here nearly twenty years ago. Sounds like a smart idea, eh? I could not be bothered, however, to think that hard. Let’s take it one garden at a time . . . one planting season at a time . . . why bother with a Master Plan that will only get changed, anyway? I argued. Well, my wild free-spirited impulses won out over the graph paper plans, and here we are.
Ergo: I planted my asparagus four times. In four different locations. And every time I planted it, I regretted the spot and ended up digging it up. Or trying to.
But have you, gentle reader, dug up asparagus roots? They don’t like it. They resist. So though I thought I was getting the roots up, I must have left even more of them behind, because I still have asparagus coming up in four distinct places. And it’s big, fat, absolutely beautiful asparagus. (See the photo above! It cannot be improved!!)
Now you understand why I don’t feel like I deserve it. Here’s a quick run-down of the four asparagus patches that I visit every day during asparagus season:
- First location: After a season or two, I decided with regret that it was not an ideal place for asparagus, but for rhubarb. I dug up the roots and put down a dozen (A DOZEN) rhubarb plants. The rhubarb took over, but the asparagus still comes up shyly from underneath the massive rhubarb leaves. The asparagus stalks are about the size of my wrist (granted: I don’t have big wrists, but still).
- Second location: I found a source of the rare PURPLE asparagus, and immediately planted it in location #2. Sadly after a couple seasons, I decided that that was a more logical location, after all, for my berry bramble area, so I dug up the purple asparagus roots and replanted them. The replanted roots must have rotted quickly. But the original planted area still yields a few delicious purple stalks every spring. (Though I don’t deserve them.)
- Third location: Same bed as above, only the north end. I can’t remember why I decided this area was the worst ever for asparagus, and actually begged to be trellised and planted with raspberries, but I did. A couple of massive asparagus patches–coming up among the raspberry canes, ouch–still yield the most delicious and tender asparagus spears.
- Fourth and final location: Here’s the most painful one to report. After dithering about with just a few roots at a time, I decided to make a Final and Bold Statement where asparagus was concerned, and bought a professional quantity (that is, 50 roots, I believe, or possibly 100?) (because: so much cheaper at that quantity, ya know) of roots and beseeched son Timothy (still living at home, wiry and strong and good with a shovel) to dig a proper trench for me in THE PERFECT LOCATION for asparagus. At the southernmost end of my third garden, between where my first hoop house now stands, and the first spot (the FIRST spot) where we located our beehives (we’ve moved them since, of course) (because: no Master Plan). Timothy did a beautiful job of digging a proper trench, and we planted like we were serious about it: spreading the little roots just-so, a nice application of (well-rotted!) manure, the whole thing. Textbook! What we didn’t see coming is that those darn honeybees wouldn’t let either of us maintain the patch! Whenever we’d go to weed or water, they’d drive us out of the neighborhood. What could we do? (I must admit I still laugh at the memory of Timothy, running away from the patch, his long legs striding out rapidly, waving his hands over his head, fending off angry honeybees.) We neglected, and then finally abandoned that beautifully-planted asparagus bed. And of course the brome grass moved in and took over. But gentle reader. I still wade through the brome each day and pick armloads of (neglected, but beautiful) asparagus spears. Because the bees have been relocated, you see. Because . . . well, you know why.
I’ve been picking asparagus from my crazily-neglected patches since early spring, and it’s still coming on strong, though it’s nearly summer. Pity my poor asparagus patches. But don’t pity me. I don’t deserve it.
My point? I think I’m getting to it now: though those asparagus patches aren’t perfect, they are fruitful. They are like me, in essence. Wildly imperfect, yet still producing plenty of goodness. I hope.
Speaking of the weather: We’ve had the most delightful stretch of cool nights and warm days and enough rain to make it feel like a tropical rain forest here. I never complain. Well, I do, but what’s the use in complaining about the weather? You absolutely cannot do a darn thing about it. Plus, it’s silly. There are only a few absolutely perfect days in Nebraska: maybe a trio of days in early May (she says, thinking about her birthday, the blooming of lilacs, lily-of-the-valley, and peonies), and then again a smattering of days in late September (when the summer’s heat and humidity has finally given way to the cooler days of fall, but before ice forms on the birdbath and you have to dig out your woolies) and all the rest of the days . . . well, they are as imperfect as life itself.
Newsflash: Life is imperfect. My asparagus patches are not perfect. You, dearest gentle reader, are not perfect (I venture to conject?). We are not in heaven, you see. We are on earth, we are made of earth, and as heartily as we might wish it to be perfect here, it–is–most–assuredly–not.
But there are some perfect things about life that I cling to, especially when life’s imperfections are more obvious than usual. Is it the same with you?
Perfect things in life right now: My adorable grandies (their parents hint that they are not perfect, but I don’t believe them for a minute). The memories of my lovely bride-daughter Amalia on her wedding day. Walking with little . . er, big Mack with the dogs in the evenings, always on a different route and discovering new things in our area, though we’ve lived here nearly twenty years now. And the good green foods that God rewards us with, as kind of a spring tonic and a reward for making it through another winter, and for tending a garden and asparagus beds (even imperfectly) and rhubarb patches for the other eleven months out of the year.
Yes, yes, life is full of good and imperfect things, if we can be wise enough to see them.
And, speaking of what do I do with all this asparagus? That is what we were discussing, isn’t it? So far, I’ve
- crunched it down raw while doing chores (So. Delicious.)
- made a wildly delicious frittata (“fluffy”)
- made countless pans-full of my Dad’s recipe for “butter-steamed” asparagus
- and made this pasta dish that I found to be so good I had to share the recipe with you.
- ½ pound asparagus, cleaned and chopped
- ½ pound dried spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced (or more to taste)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper or pinches of red pepper flakes (or both)
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- A heap of grated parmesan (about ½ cup) OR a combination of mozzarella, Bleu Cheese crumbles, and parmesan, to make ½ cup (or more).
- Bring a large pot of water to boil for your pasta.
- Chop your asparagus into 1" segments, breaking off the tough stems.
- As soon as your pasta water comes to a boil, suspend a colander above the pot and steam the asparagus for a few minutes, until slightly tender. (How clever is this?)
- Add pasta to water and cook until al dente, or about one minute less than fully cooked. Before draining pasta, reserve a cup of pasta cooking water and set it aside. Drain pasta.
- In the bottom of (the same) pot (cleverness abounds), melt butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Add onion and reduce to medium-low, sauteing it until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add steamed asparagus, salt and red or black pepper and turn the heat back up to medium-high, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a few additional minutes. Pour cream over mixture and let cook for 30 seconds. And 30 seconds ONLY. (Kidding, until steamy and hot, basically.)
- Transfer asparagus mixture in all its creamy glory to a blender or food processor and blend in short bursts until it’s finely chopped and a little saucy. The reserved pasta water will give it the sauciness it needs in a minute, don't fret if it's not as saucy as all that. Yet.
- Add the asparagus sauce back to the pot with the drained spaghetti and a splash or two of the reserved pasta water. Cook over medium-high for 2-3 minutes, tossing the mixture so that it evenly coats. Add more pasta water as needed, until all is steamy and right. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or pepper, and scoop into a serving bowl. Shower spaghetti with grated parmesan, mozzarella and bleu cheese crumbles and dig in.
Here’s a little tip for using fewer pans (ergo: fewer dishes!). Instead of using a separate pot for steaming the asparagus, simply put the asparagus into a colander (above left) and set it atop the boiling pot of pasta, and set the lid on top! Neat, huh?
It really does whip together in a flash–I think it took me maybe 45 minutes, and I was constantly interrupted, as per usual. So you may be able to make it in 30, if you focus. And keep the kids and the dogs out of the kitchen. Do what I say, not what I do, ha!
Take care, dear gentle reader. Focus on the good. There is so much of it.
Thanks for popping in.
p.s. SO much happening. Check out daughter Bethie’s and my latest podcast here, where we answer a few tantalizing questions from our listeners. And, if you’re so inclined, join our new Sweet as Love Community on Facebook. We have a fun time together and we solve a few of the world’s problems at the same time (not really!).
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