Saturday, April 30, 2016

Gardeners' Holidays 2016: The Age of Asparagus

I'm celebrating the Age of Asparagus a day early this year, since last year I was so busy with other May Day festivities that I completely forgot to do a blog post.

Unfortunately, this spring our asparagus patch isn't giving us much to celebrate. We've harvested only a handful of spears so far, and right now there aren't more than three or four incipient ones out there. Most of the shoots we've had so far were so skinny, we let them go straight to fern without bothering to pick them.

And the new asparagus plants we added in the back yard two years back, which should theoretically be mature enough to eat this year, are helping any. In fact, of the ten plants we put in, only five appear to have come up at all, and they look even scrawnier and more pathetic than the asparagus in the side yard.

Fortunately, as you can see at the far end of the bed, we do have one spring vegetable in the yard that isn't letting us down: our trusty rhubarb plants. After an early and warm spring, they're already looking quite large, bushy, and healthy. Brian has already had to go out several times to remove the flower spikes so the plants will put more of their energy into producing healthy, edible stalks.

We've already tried one new rhubarb recipe this year, using some (but by no means the last) of the rhubarb we had frozen from last year's bountiful crop. Savory, the freebie magazine they give out at Stop & Shop, had several interesting recipes in its spring issue, and one of them was a simple rhubarb and strawberry compote that looked like an ideal dessert for the Passover Seder. We made a double recipe of it, which turned out to be way more than we needed for the family, so we had a whole jar left over to enjoy during the eight days of Passover. It turns out to make a good topping for matzo brei (which presumably would be equally good on waffles or pancakes), and it's also good with the potato-based porridge I eat as an alternative Passover breakfast. And, of course, it's also quite nice with vanilla ice cream.

For tonight, though, we're going with an old standby: Skillet Chicken and Rhubarb. Brian was thinking of making it with quinoa as an alternative to the usual polenta, since we picked some up at the Whole Earth Center and we need to use it somehow. But since we've never done it that way before, we decided to stick with the tried-and-true polenta rather than risk messing up one of our favorite dishes. We'll think of something else to do with the quinoa, possibly in a veggie dish that can serve as our Recipe of the Month for May.

So tonight, it's rhubarb for dinner, and possibly rhubarb for dessert as well, since we still have a tiny bit of the compote left. And then tomorrow, it's up long before the day-o to welcome in the May-o.
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