Velocium quam asparagi coquantur


(or, a very nerdy post about asparagus)

 

Those great foodies, the ancient Romans, used this Latin expression to describe doing something quickly – meaning, “in the time it takes to cook asparagus.” And, like most good things in ancient Roman culture, asparagus was stolen from the Greeks. In the centuries since, asparagus has become an important vegetable to most European and several American cuisines, and in my tiny kitchen, it’s a staple.

You have to plan ahead with asparagus, especially during its very short season. Basically, if you’re able to buy absolutely fresh asparagus (grown no more than an hour or two away from where you plan to cook it), first of all, you should; and second, you should cook it as soon as possible. Of course this is true of pretty much all veggies but asparagus is particularly particular. Most folks recommend storing asparagus upright in a bowl or glass with a little water in the bottom. Turns out, not only should they be stored like flowers, they more or less are flowers, as part of the extended lily family. And, like flowers, you shouldn’t eat the dried-out or slimy ones. Er … hang on …

Of course, for most of us, decently good imported asparagus is almost always available. And – let’s be honest – most of us wouldn’t know the difference. Asparagus can grow pretty much anywhere there’s good, sandy soil, but it’s actually a perennial plant and has to occupy its space on the farm plot permanently, meaning it’s costing the farmer the space to grow it all the time and not just during its short season, on top of the price increase from having it shipped to your local supermarket. Most people who are determined enough to eat that many veggies in their diets are going to pay the out-of-season prices of asparagus to get it year-round – and why shouldn’t they?

Asparagus is good just about any old way – my personal favorite is to roast it, especially in a little olive oil and some bread crumbs (feeling indulgent? Throw some mozzarella on there, too). It’s also amazingly tender and perfectly salty when wrapped in prosciutto and gently roasted or grilled. This weekend I’m hoping to serve some just barely warmed, with some Old Bay aioli – ready and delicious, in the time it takes to cook the asparagus.

(photos by kpeeples/MPC 2011)

Sources
Asparagus. Retrieved 27 May, 2011 from http://cooksinfo.com/asparagus.

Asparagus. Retrieved 27 May, 2011 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/asparagus.

Herbst, S. & Herbst, R (2007). The New Food Lover’s Companion.

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