I am a lifelong asparagus hunter. I started when I was still riding on my mom’s or dad’s back. Every spring of my childhood, we would head out to our asparagus haunt and come home year after year with paper bags filled to the brim.
I took a break from picking during my rebellious teenage years and then couldn’t get it out of my system as a young adult, continuing to obsess to this day.
Asparagus begins to peek out of the soil in mid-spring around the same time the cherry and apple blossoms are in full bloom and morel mushrooms are ripe for the hunt. From mid-May to early June, you can see it growing in country road ditches and Door County fields.
With the progress Door County has seen in the last 30 years, most of my known asparagus picking places have been swallowed up by development. Wild asparagus is out there though; patches are sprinkled in many Door County meadows. When you stumble onto one of these, it feels like you have struck gold. Revel in your delicious bounty.
If you are looking to cultivate asparagus, you’ll need patience: it takes upwards of three seasons to establish your crop. There are many varieties, including white asparagus, which is grown completely underground to avoid the production of chlorophyll. This doesn’t change the flavor but keeps the asparagus void of color. Certain varieties grow longer into the season and are better suited to cool climates. Do your research before you decide what kind to invest in.
My favorite way to enjoy asparagus to this day is raw. That being said, asparagus is a very adaptable vegetable. It’s a great addition to omelets, on the grill or roasted in the oven. I love it tossed into a simple pasta dish or stir-fry. In my opinion asparagus is one of the best gifts Mother Nature created for human consumption.
*When preparing asparagus, snap each spear (don’t cut with a knife). Gently bend each piece. They will snap in the appropriate place, easy to eliminate the woody stalks.
Roasted Parmesan Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto
1 lb fresh asparagus (thick spears are best, but use more than one spear per wrap if they are thin)
extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
1 garlic clove, minced
Soak asparagus spears in lightly salted water for one hour before assembling. Drain and pat dry with paper towel. Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss the asparagus in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, Parmesan cheese and minced garlic. You don’t need additional salt because the prosciutto is plenty salty.
Lay one slice of prosciutto on a sheet pan. Roll the asparagus into the prosciutto. Pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for approximately 10 minutes. Serve hot or cold. Makes a delicious spring appetizer or topper for your favorite grilled steak.
Roasted Asparagus, Sweet Tomato and Feta Pasta
1 lb fresh asparagus
½ red onion, diced
8 oz sweet cherry tomatoes
2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
½ lb linguine
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
handful shredded fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 375°F and heat a pot of salted water to boil. Place the asparagus, onion, tomatoes and garlic in a roasting pan. Coat with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Toss often to avoid charring.
In the meantime, cook the pasta al denté, drain and coat in olive oil, and set aside. Remove the asparagus mixture from the oven. Toss with the pasta, feta cheese and fresh basil. Salt and pepper to taste.