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Asparagus Tips


For most of us, asparagus marks the start of a long stretch of seasonal eating – and cooking.

If you’ve been chomping at the bit for some home-grown spring vegetables, you’ve likely noticed that local asparagus, the traditional harbinger of spring, has only just shown up on the scene.

Cooler-than-normal spring temperatures slowed the first seasonal harvest. What’s to blame? That brief, delicious stretch of warm weather in March that led to the budding of an early growth turned the budding spears into mush.

The majority of Canada’s crop is grown in areas throughout South-western Ontario such as Norfolk and Elgin County, as well as Chatham-Kent, Waterloo, and Essex County. All of which have experienced the same cold spring.  Tempted by the asparagus you see in the stores while you’re waiting for local?  Check the provenance – they are likely from China, the biggest producer of in the world.

Hopefully, this weekend’s shopping will yield a rich, home-grown bounty, if it doesn’t, you can pass the time marvelling over this trivia:

That everyone makes asparagus pee, but that not everyone can smell it?

Did you know that white asparagus is the result of an absence of sunlight, not genetic modification? And that they are the most labour intensive to grow?

Or that the asparagus is one of only three vegetables (rhubarb and artichokes round out the trio) that grows in North America from a perennial plant?

When it comes to cooking them, the simpler, the better. Here is Jacob Richler’s favourite (and fool-proof!) way to correctly cook the green spears:

Perfect Asparagus

1 bunch green asparagus, peeled

2 tbsp (30 mL) salt

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter

1 tsp (5 mL) chives, minced

Pinch of salt, pepper

Blanch in pot of vigorously boiling salted water for 60-90 seconds (depending on thickness) and then shock in iced water. Heat a skillet on low-medium, add butter and asparagus. Toss until just tender and then finish with minced chives, salt and pepper.

If instead you want to grill them, omit the butter and chives, and boil the peeled spears for only 45-60 seconds before shocking in ice water. Then, oil your hot grill, and grill the spears until nicely marked by the grill – about 30 seconds per side. Remove to a warm serving plate, drizzle with fine extra virgin olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.