With this brilliant sunshine the theme of spring being just around the corner continues to light my life. After all the groundhog didn’t see his shadow and they never lie do they? Asparagus is a sure sign of spring and when I saw it sitting in Costco this week for only $5.98 for a kilo, I knew it was a sign.
For most of us, asparagus comes from the store or if you are really lucky, you planted some and patiently waited the 2-3 years for it to germinate and become something edible.
However, there is yet another way of securing fresh succulent asparagus. There are the most fortunate of us, those who grew up picking and eating wild asparagus – the only “real” asparagus. Picking asparagus in the desert is not for the faint of heart who have a phobia of snakes – especially rattle snakes. This photo below which appear to be growing only sagebrush, is in fact prime asparagus land in the interior of BC. The first spring that we were in Ashcroft a wonderful neighbour stopped by with big black garbage bags and invited my mom and I to gather asparagus. Personally I thought she was nuts, as I couldn’t see anything growing in that dry, barren land. Fortunately, I was wrong.
We headed into the dusty, cactus spotted hills with our garbage bags, hiking up and traversing the hill back and forth. Not long after we had filled the bags with nice fat pieces of asparagus. Contrary to the belief of many who prize the long skinny pieces of asparagus as tender, the fat short asparagus are the most tender and full of flavour. We would pick for hours until (usually my mom) would scream and run down the hill after discovering yet another snake. Of course that would finish me too and we would wait by the old VW bug until our much braver friend finished picking her patch. Much like truffle hunting, people are very secretive and protective about their asparagus patches. It has become much more difficult to harvest the wild asparagus unless you have a “friend” with a patch as many are now on private land, but I still taste the first asparagus of the season perfectly cooked and smothered in butter.
Being a little more conscious of my butter intake, and not having the “real” thing, I thought the next best thing would be a healthy green soup.
- 1½ lbs asparagus roasted
- 1tbsp extra virgin or blood orange olive oil (to roast the asparagus)
- zest from ½ organic orange
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ¼ tsp chili flakes, or more to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup pistachios, toasted
- Cream or creme fraiche optional
- Clean the asparagus, breaking off the ends at their natural break point. Place on a cooking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place in 400 degree oven and roast until just starting to get tender but not too charred.
- Remove from oven and place in food processor or Vitamix with 1 cup broth. Puree until smooth.
- Add orange zest, salt, pepper, (i often add a bit of lemon pepper too), chilis, and the rest of the broth. Puree.[/url] [url:3]
- Lightly toast the pistachios in a pan on the stove. Watch them carefully as they toast very quickly and likely to burn.
- At this point you can determine whether you would prefer to serve hot or cold. I like both. If you want hot, place in pan and gently heat. Do not boil.
- Pour the soup into bowls, garnish with a bit of cream or creme fraiche, the pistachios and any leftover orange rind.