by Lorette C. Luzajic
Springtime in my youth meant soggy orchard romps with my imaginary friends, spectral playmates I invented in the tiny graveyard down the street. We would plunge our hands into the icy brook and pull out clay to flatten like plasticine into little masks we hoped to dry under the sun. We trekked through the jungle of my grandfather’s apple acreage and played Nancy Drew, hunting for criminal caves and buried treasure. Our favourite game, however, was gathering bundles of asparagus, edible members of the lily family, which grew abundantly in the wild meadows of Niagara. May was asparagus month, with sublime spears perfecting every meal. Each stalk is chock full of folic acid, potassium, B6, thiamine, and Vitamin C- a bonus accompanying the mouthwatering taste.
Those wild stalks would start out as precocious shoots, then grow to tower over my head. Sometimes the diameters of the stalks were so thick that I couldn’t get my pudgy little hands around them. Since asparagus can grow ten inches overnight, and be picked over and over again every few days, the whole of spring was a festival of my favourite vegetable. And though I have long left life as a country mouse to become a city mouse, those fields may still spill asparagus bounty, since one plant can produce for some fifteen years.
Canada celebrates the lily of lilies in May, though the season will last through June. May is also part of the six week Spargelfest in Germany, when the asparagus-obsessed chefs compete to create the best recipes. In Switzerland, it’s called Spargelzeit. Every day of the festival, new menus are offered- including dessert, such as asparagus ice cream!
We’re approaching asparagus season again, and so the sad supermarket bundles of wilted produce will be replaced for a couple of months with fresh, juicy, crisp spears from local farms and fields. This is the time to treat your taste buds. Asparagus can be served raw with dip; it can be chopped into salads. It can be steamed and wrapped in prosciutto. It can be ladled with Hollandaise, on its own or replacing the spinach in eggs Florentine. Asparagus can be sautéed with bacon to top a baked potato; it can be pureed for cream of asparagus soup. It can be sprinkled with shavings of real Parmesan cheese, or tossed with olive oil and white wine in pasta.
These are all splendid meals, but simplicity has always suited asparagus best. The most divine incarnation of this green god comes from a quick steam and a splash of lemon, butter and salt. Pair that with a bloody steak and a mellow wine and you have cuisine worthy of kings.
The markets will soon begin to flourish with fine bundles of green gold, and the fields, too, if you can get out to the country. What a strange pity for those who loathe the stuff- it seems no one is neutral on this vegetable. Those who hate it report abject disgust. For lovers, there’s no time like the present.
Lorette C. Luzajic is an independent artist and writer. She writes about meat, Michael Jackson, and life as a bipolar artist. She is also a champion of freedom of expression, the most fundamental of human rights and the foundation of all others. Please visit her creativity portal ideafountain.ca for collages, abstracts, books, and advocacy.