Asparagus is a surprise member of the lily family, along with onions, garlic, leeks and chives. It grows from a rhizome, or crown, planted almost 12 inches deep in any soil with good drainage. Asparagus hates wet feet! In Colorado, an asparagus bed can produce for about 20 years without replanting, a very attractive attribute. The bad news is that there is no real harvest for about 3 years in order to establish the bed, to let the plants store enough energy to last two decades. The crowns will send up spears for 6-7 weeks in the spring, usually with harvest beginning in May here. It may start earlier due to the unseasonably warm temperatures. Check with CSU Extension for varieties recommended for Colorado.
I’ve talked in the past about roasting asparagus with Portabella mushrooms, leeks, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar; about making asparagus soup and using spears in omelets and salads. The following is a popular appetizer with cooking class participants:
Asparagus in Wonton Wraps
1 bunch of asparagus, ends snapped off
1 pkg. wonton skins
Muenster cheese slices
Thai or Italian basil leaves
Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for one minute. Immediately plunge in ice water to stop the cooking, for one minutes. Drain in a colander.
Meanwhile, lay out the wonton skins on a clean countertop or cutting board. Place a quarter of a slice of cheese, a basil leaf, and one cooled asparagus spear, on the diagonal. Roll up tightly and secure with a dab of water in one corner of the wonton. Heat peanut or grapeseed oil in a large skillet. Place the asparagus spears in their wraps into the skillet when the oil is hot, being sure not to crowd them. If crowded, they steam instead of brown. Brown on all sides, drain on paper towels, and serve at once with bottled sweet chili sauce. Alternatively, make a sauce balancing soy sauce and rice vinegar with a little sugar.
Yesterday I made a late breakfast of wild salmon and asparagus salad just using up what I had available, what needed to be used up from the refrigerator, with cooked sweet potato, red onion slices and a mustardy vinaigrette over crisp romaine.
Wild Salmon and Asparagus Salad
1 6oz. wild salmon fillet per person
3-5 asparagus spears per person
Sliced red onion
½-1 cup cooked diced sweet potato per person
Diced red bell pepper
Torn romaine or butter lettuce leaves
Grill or sauté the salmon, skin on, until done to your liking, remove the skin and break up into bite-sized pieces. Either use leftover asparagus, or just blanche it in a little salted water for a minute or two, and add it warm to the greens and onion. I cooked the diced sweet potato in boiling water with a little sea salt, and added the asparagus during the last minute of cooking. Toss all the ingredients together with a little vinaigrette to which you’ve added some Dijon mustard, possibly a little honey, and enjoy!