I spy asparagus!
My good friend Loui and I took a walk with her dog Simon last week while I was visiting her and her husband up in northern Colorado. She brought several newspaper bags along – one for Simon – and two for picking the wild asparagus.
Which reminds me of a little Jerry Seinfeld wisdom:
“Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?” Truly! Though, if that’s the way of it, Simon is a very genial boy, all sunny smiles and lightness. And very handsome. Willing to go the extra mile… listens well… a great leader for our excursion…
We saw an osprey winging straight above us with prey in it’s talons, (fresh out of the irrigation ditch?) and a calm plains garter snake below, orange and yellow stripes running along it’s sides, staring unmoving at us. The ospreys had picked the top of a telephone pole to build their stick platform nest this year, and we saw what looked like three little heads and beaks swaying up out of the tangle of twigs.
Huge cottonwoods line a part of the trail – and one winter evening at dusk, a couple of years ago, we saw three owls, heard them too – hooting softly back and forth to each other, and to Loui’s husband Bob, who’s developed a mean owl call, chatting it up with them, esconced high in the trees, hoot hoot hoot! getting closer, closer. It was a wonder to be standing practically underneath where they sat on the fat branches, snow on the ground, our breath coming out like clouds, holiday lights sparkling around the lake.
We had mosquitoes to encourage us these May days on the trail. Even so, the asparagus picking walks were such a treat! It’s in the middle of prime asparagus season in their area, (beginning late April for a month or so, and sometimes even into July) and a little thrill each time we’d spot the tell-tale tall, dried feathery fronds from last season marking the picking spots. I love the satisfying juicy SNAP as stalks are picked low to the ground. And greedily searching for more green spears hiding amongst the grasses:
— camouflaged to the untrained eye. Loui has the wild forager’s zeal, tramping delightedly through the grasses off trail, excited as all get out when we found these impossibly tall, perfect stalks. Just like me! And then, around the bend above a little lake on a slope down from the trail, we hit the mother lode. Seventeen stalks in one patch.
Ah….what a joy. Let someone else pay 5.99 a pound for organic asparagus, cut evenly and banded uniformly with lavender rubber bands. We made a haul. Back in Loui’s kitchen, she had a plan. The Moosewood Cookbook’s Cream of Asparagus soup.
Moosewood Cream of Asparagus Soup
with a few variations…
- 2 cups stock (we used a vegetable stock)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons flour (we used potato starch)
- handful fresh chopped dill
- 1 1/2 lbs fresh asparagus
- 4 cups scalded milk
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- tamari to taste
Break off the tough asparagus bottoms and discard them. Break off the asparagus tips and set them aside. Chop the stalks, and sauté them with the onions in the butter. After 8-10 minutes, when onions are clear, sprinkle in the flour/potato starch. Continue to cook over lowest possible heat, 5-8 minutes. Add stock. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Puree with the milk in the blender. Blend until smooth. Return the puree to a kettle, and add dill, salt, pepper and a few dashes of tamari. Heat the soup gently, and as it heats, sauté the asparagus tips until tender, but still green. Add these, whole, to the soup.
The soup was delectable. I love cream of asparagus soup too, with fresh tarragon, a bit of thyme, a sprinkle of fresh chives with a few of their flowers – and a few squeezes of lemon juice, garnished with a little lemon zest.
There is something about wild foraging that brings extra magic and depth to the table. To our souls. Loui and I felt it, smiling from ear to ear, spoons in hand, a sip of wine taken in between the lovely slurps. With joy and thanks, and a toast to good friends.