This week we were thrilled to bring local asparagus and ramps into the PRINT kitchen. These two plants are the true harbingers of spring flavor. We also had our first asparagus harvest from the PRINT rooftop garden. After an initial planting three years ago, the plant has matured and is bearing succulent stalks (most of which we have been nibbling on raw while working on restoring the garden’s soil – stay tuned for more on that in next week’s blog). I saw the stalks emerging 2 inches out of the ground on Friday, and then with the hot Easter weekend weather they shot up to the height you see in the photo below.
Wild ramps may bring their musky wild aluminum flavor for a few brief weeks, but asparagus season lasts twice as long. It brings its bright verdant flavor to many dishes on our menu so I wanted to focus on it for this post.
In Germany there is a special name for asparagus season: spargelzeit, which goes from April 22nd-June 24th. However, in Europe it is more often the white asparagus you see stacked up on the street carts for sale. It is the same as the green variety, but it is not allowed access to sunlight and is usually grown in hoop houses to keep it’s white color. The resulting flavor is more mild and nutty than the green variety most farmers grow in the U.S. Several organic farmers in New Jersey, Bodhi Tree Farm and Lani’s Farm, are experimenting with white asparagus. They say that the labor-intensive process of covering the stalks with soil makes it a difficult crop to grow in large quantities. It is no wonder then that they are charging $26 per pound for these prized rare stalks.
Not only should you enjoy local asparagus for its great flavor, but it is also high in many nutrients and even aids in probiotic production in the gut. Here are some details from the Farmer’s Almanac:
It delivers a dense assortment of conventional nutrients, especially folate and other B vitamins, selenium, copper, potassium and other minerals, and vitamins K, C, E, and A. It’s among the foods highest in “prebiotic fiber,” indigestible carbohydrates that ferment in the large intestine and provide food for bacteria beneficial to health. Asparagus is high in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antitumor phytocompounds; researchers suggest may benefit human health. A close relative, asparagus racemosus, has been used in South-Asian Ayurvedic medicine for millennia.
Happy Earth Day!