Hi again farm-friendly foodies! We’re back with another edition of Maurín Traiteur’s Local and Seasonal Blog. Last time, we talked about the early spring delicacy, fiddleheads. Today, we’re going to look at another quintessential spring vegetable, asparagus.
You will, by now, have seen the little green spears bundled up at local fruiteries, markets and grocers. Asparagus not only has a unique mix of mild bitter and earthy flavours, but it has many health benefits and is even rumoured to have aphrodisiac qualities. It can be grown or foraged easily in the Montreal area, but must be picked before it becomes too thick, woody and bitter (very mature asparagus even grows a poisonous berry). In Europe, asparagus is often buried while it grows to prevent it from becoming green, and many Europeans will be more familiar with white asparagus. This form is much less common on this side of the pond, and Quebec-grown white asparagus appears later in the season. White asparagus is milder and generally less bitter, but more expensive, as it is more labour intensive to produce.
Here are a few tips on how to make the best use of the equally delicious green stalks found all over Canada from mid-spring to early summer while local supplies last. First off, even young asparagus has a thick, woody stem that is less pleasant to eat and digest. The easiest way to remove that section is by simply snapping the stalk in two with your fingers. It will naturally break at the right length. This method actually works better than using a knife. But don’t throw the stalks in the compost! They can be used to make delicious cream soups, using a roux base or potatoes, which provide a natural starch to thicken the broth.
Now, for the best part: make sure not to overcook the tender stalks. They should still have some crunch when served! They can be lightly roasted or barbecued and served with hollandaise sauce. Asparagus pairs particularly nicely with lemon, so you should always squeeze some on while they’re cooking.