Asparagus. Lovingly referred to in the produce world as “grass.” Although I do not recall seeing any college kid walking around wearing a “Legalize Asparagus” T-shirt. Maybe we should start that fashion line?? Anyway…asparagus gets its nickname because it grows like a grass. Tender spears will emerge from the dormant soil and before they get too tall (and woody) the farmer cuts them off just below the soil.
They are actually a very labor intensive crop to grow hence they sell for a premium in the marketplace. With many produce items, mechanization can help keep the costs down, but with asparagus, the grass needs to be cut by hand. This helps ensure only the best spears get sliced but you also have to leave some of the spears to give the underground plant energy from photosynthesis.
A storage tip: if you do not plan on eating the grass quickly, try slicing the tips off of the bottoms and soaking them in water as you would a bouquet of flowers. Then store the spears in the fridge in a plastic bag so they do not dehydrate.
Cooking tip: place the asparagus in a frying pan, pour in 1/4 cup of water, cover and steam them for about 5-7 minutes. As those babies are steaming, mince up some garlic. When the spears are getting close but not totally ready, remove any excess water and throw in your garlic with a pad of butter. Continue to coat and cook for another minute or so. Remove when the spears are cooked but still al dente. Salt and pepper.
Another one of my seasonal favorites is the Ataulfo mango. This dude definitely falls under the category of having a face only a mother could love. They are so darn beautifully ugly that it is no wonder that they really don’t have a place on the grocery store shelves. Not in this country at least.
There are 2 tricks with the Ataulfos though that you need to remember. First is that this is not a good variety of mango for making salsa or trying to cut the “meat” away from the pit. So just peel and eat the darn thing like an apple. It’s a messy job but someone has got to do it. And you are up for the task.
Second thing to remember about the Ataulfo is that they actually get better the uglier they look. You don’t want them turning all brown, but the natural wrinkles they get mean they are getting better. You see the fibrous meat will break down into a creamy custard texture with time. But you have to be patient with them which is hard to do. I know.
So try to let them get wrinkly, resist the urge eat them too soon. You will be happy that your patience will pay off. Oh yes, another thing is to definitely not refrigerate them. Let them go through this transition on your counter. And eat at room temp. A refrigerated mango will trap all of those amazing floral notes that you get to enjoy when it is ripe.
Lastly this week, I want to walk you through how one human emotion, guilt, can hinder a person’s move towards a healthy lifestyle. It plays out like this.
I believe that our mission to bring you a healthier regional food model can bring a lot of amazing things to your life, but it also asks a lot of you in return. In our society where fast, convenient, cheap food is king, I am asking you to connect with your food and those who produce your food. And as we all know, connections take time out of our busy lives to forge. You cannot connect with someone or something in a week, a month, and possibly a year. So in a time when technology makes everything available to us any time of the day, asking you to take time to connect with your food is challenging.
And what can happen as you take this journey with your food is that it becomes harder to see something not get used and go to waste. When you buy 100 lbs of some mass produced cheap food from a box store, there is no connection with that food so there is less guilt when some food goes unused. This is not the same case when you feel connected to that bunch of chard and then see it wilt. Maybe chard is a bad example 🙂
Just remember that this food model that we are building together is truly about the journey and not the destination. We are making huge strides for the health of the community and the health of the food industry. We are going to have some loss on this path, but just don’t let guilt derail our positive momentum. Focus on the forest and not the tree.
Have a great week, Farmer Monte