Do you like asparagus? Those tender green shoots are some of the earliest vegetables of spring, but the season for fresh homegrown asparagus is quickly winding down.
Garden master Jim Duthie tells about this remarkable vegetable and he’s joined by Chef Lou Aaron, and they’re cooking up a really tasty way to serve asparagus.
Did you know that asparagus is one of only three vegetables common in North America that comes from a perennial plant?
That means that it keeps coming up year after year without replanting. Once the frozen ground begins to thaw, the massive asparagus root system pushes out edible spears at the rate of six inches or more each day.
If you love asparagus and want to grow some yourself, don’t wait too long to start, because it takes a few years to get a productive crop going. But once it gets established, you’ll be picking fresh asparagus spears every spring for the next 20 to 30 years.
You can grow asparagus from seed, but you’ll cut down the time to your first harvest by planting asparagus crowns. They look like worn out string mops.
They are planted in trenches with the crown roots spread out and then covered with about six inches of good soil and compost.
Asparagus likes full sun and plenty of water, but it absolutely won’t tolerate any competition like weeds or grass.
Don’t harvest any asparagus spears the first year. Instead, let the plants grow and develop, and then the spears will be bigger the following year and every year after that.
Asparagus does take some preparation and patience, but you’ll be rewarded with a delicious harvest for years to come.
We’ve invited our friend Chef Lou Aaron from Westside Drive-In to talk a little bit about asparagus and how to prepare it. So what’s going on here today?
"Well, you know, asparagus is just all over the place right now, and if you go to any restaurant in town you’re going to hear 'asparagus fries.' So that’s what we’re making today. We’re making asparagus fries."
First, we’re going to make a beer batter, but with a twist. Instead of beer, we’re using seltzer water.
"This is kind of the sparkling part that takes the place of the beer."
Start with one egg, slightly beaten, and mix in about a cup of the seltzer water.
"Okay. We’re going to mix that up real good."
Then we add the dry ingredients. Instead of the usual corn starch, Lou is using half regular all-purpose flour and half rice flour, for a lighter, crunchier texture.
“Okay. So this is our nice batter. Real simple batter. You can fry any type of vegetable in this.”
Season it with a little salt and pepper, in this case, a healthier pink Himalayan sea salt, and a couple of pinches of granulated garlic, and mix it well.
“So that’s our batter.”
If it’s too thick, just add a little more water.
Coat each asparagus spear with the batter, and lay them gently in about an inch of hot vegetable oil, for a minute or two on each side.
While that’s cooking, we’ll make a dipping sauce. We’ll take some wasabi powder, add a little water to make a paste, and add it to some mayonnaise.
“Another thing that’s hot right now is sriracha.”
So to spice up the sauce a little more, Lou adds some sriracha sauce.
Once the asparagus fries are golden brown and crispy, remove them from the oil and drain them on a paper towel.
“See how they look like French fries?”
“They’re a great appetizer, they’re a great snack.”
“Let’s give one a try.”
“That’s pretty darn good. Nice crunch.”
“Mmmm. Those are really good.”
Thanks Lou. So, something you can do with asparagus. Asparagus season’s coming to an end right now, but you’ll always be able to find some fresh asparagus in your local grocery store in the produce section.”
If you want to try growing asparagus yourself, here are a couple of websites with some great information.