5/1/12

Wild Asparagus Hunting

In December of 2011, we lost an 8-month long battle with the Town we live in over property rights. We endeavored to defend our farm's 100+ year agricultural use in the face of a 20 year-old zoning code that allows horses, but not cows. After the town judge found us guilty of "possession of cattle", we began to search for cow pasture, which resulted in God leading us to a very unique property, with some wonderful new friends, just 4 miles away from our town.


Our new friends, SS & FF offered to house our cattle in their pasture in exchange for us doing a little work around their 140 acre farm. As their farm is outside of city limits, they experience all the freedom and autonomy we only dream of having on our place. They can lawfully hunt, fish, farm, shoot, grow, house livestock, and do whatever else strikes their fancy. So it's probably no surprise that for the last 3 months, we have spent nearly every weekend at our cows' new home, building fences, planting trees, cultivating garden areas or just sharing meals with SS, FF & their kids.


Last weekend when we visited the Farm to work on a new section of fence, I found SS down at the edge of the lake with a bag and a knife harvesting wild asparagus. I've only ever heard tales of asparagus growing wild in ditches and along waterways, and had never hunted it myself, but I grabbed a bag & headed over to see if I could participate. SS turns out to be a legendary asparagus hunter, spotting the tender new shoots amidst the dead marsh grass & old gray stalks. A total novice, I had to identify a stand of live, leafed-out stalks to recognize the emerging harvest, but got better at spotting our quarry toward the end. I've scarcely had so much fun and I think hunting produce actually fulfilled some ancient primal gathering instinct that has long been ignored.


 We came back to the house with two grocery bags overflowing with asparagus stalks. I brought mine home and soaked them in cold water to minimize the bugs and grit, and then prepared them by snapping off the woody ends, drizzling them with olive oil, and then sprinkling fresh minced garlic and salt over top. After soaking for around a half hour, I threw them on the barbecue until they were tender, but still crisp. This is my new favorite way to prepare asparagus courtesy of another friend and culinary genius, LP.


The kids were a bit put off by the much stringier texture of the wild asparagus, but I found the top 4 inches of the stalks to be sweet, tender and better than any bruised, wilted asparagus hailing from the grocery store.

A few stalks were too mature to eat, so I threw them in a glass of water to see if I could force them to seed. If I'm successful, I will plant my own perennial asparagus in my garden.

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