Dear Cooking & Eating Friends:
Our asparagus bed here at Rabbit Hill is in full production with purple, hooded heads poking through the rich, black, soil and tall, stately purple and green spears. Purple Passion, from Johnny's Selected Seeds is one variety my husband cultivates; sweeter and more tender than the Jersey variety of green spears. They are a colorful purple addition in salads, (try with purple and red pansies) and the spears turn green when cooked. Flip’s asparagus patch is seven years old, and we have been enjoying fresh asparagus almost daily.
With such an abundant supply, often much more than we can consume, we’ve learned some harvesting and storage techniques that increase this universally popular vegetable’s longevity before consuming.
Flip picks asparagus when they are at least 7 inches tall, and not showing signs of going to seed. He’ll cut with a knife just about where the stalk will snap when bent over.
The spears are stored in a glass jar with a couple of inches of water on the door of our refrigerator. Depending upon the amount of rainfall, we may have two jars going!
Grading or sizing the spears is important in cooking. Larger, fatter asparagus take longer to cook, and when overcooked, the pencil-thin spears get pale green and mushy. Besides great taste, there’s more to love about asparagus. An excellent source of fiber, they are also a source of iron, and vitamins A, B and C. Raw in salads, steamed with lemon, pureed in soup, grilled on pizza, smothered with Hollandaise sauce; asparagus are a versatile and tasty vegetable in the kitchen.
Grilled Asparagus & Prosciutto Sandwich is my favorite new way to enjoy this long-lived perennial. Before assembling the sandwich, there are a few simple steps to ready the ingredients. One involves grilling, which becomes a family affair.
The taste of smoky garlic bread spread with warm, soft cheese and layered with salty, delicately sliced Prosciutto ham envelopes the grilled, crisp spears of asparagus. A perfect match of flavors, tastes and textures, spring should always taste this great in a sandwich.
The season is sailing by! Look for Maine asparagus at your local farmer's market.