Saturday, May 3, 2014

Gardeners' Holidays 2014: The Age of Asparagus

May Day is one of the few holidays on the Wheel of the Year that I actually celebrate in a traditional manner, by dancing all day with my Morris dance team. So this year's Age of Asparagus celebration had to be postponed until the weekend. Fortunately, unlike last year, this year we actually have a nice healthy-looking asparagus patch to celebrate. As you can see, as of this morning there were several narrow spears that had already ferned out, but there were also several nice, thick spears suitable for harvesting. And that doesn't even count the handful of spears we'd already picked last week that went into a nice omelet for a quick dinner.

The recipe we had our eye on for this year's asparagus-fest was a simple pasta dish from a little cookbook called Easy Vegetarian Dinners, published by Better Homes and Gardens. It calls for two cups of asparagus cut into 2-inch pieces, and as luck would have it, when we picked all the stout spears from the asparagus bed, we had exactly the right amount and didn't need to scale the recipe at all. They got sauteed in a pan with a chopped yellow summer squash and a couple of cloves of garlic, then tossed with rotini and lemon cream sauce. (The recipe calls for an optional sprinkling of nutmeg on top, but we did not take the option.) Elegant and deceptively simple.

Since the recipe also called for half a cup of whipping cream, and since you can't buy less than a cup of it at a time, we really had no choice but to whip the rest of the cream and serve it on top of a rhubarb crisp, thus adding yet another spring vegetable to the celebration. Strictly speaking, the rhubarb in the crisp was from last year's crop and not this year's; we've had a couple of bags full of it sitting in the freezer all winter long. However, the rhubarb in the garden is already big enough to start picking, so you could make the case that using up the remains of last year's rhubarb was just a way to make room for this year's crop, and was therefore also an appropriate way to celebrate the arrival of a full-blown spring. After the winter we just made it through, I'm prepared to seize on any excuse I can get.

So, after waking up the earth with our bells and pipes on May Day, we enjoyed her fruits over the weekend. And the festivities don't stop there: I've just learned that tomorrow is an unofficial holiday as well, known as Star Wars Day. Want to know why?

Are you sure you want to know why?

OK, but don't say I didn't warn you: it's because it's May the Fourth. As in, May the Fourth be with you.

Not to mention the athparaguth.
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