What’s In Season Chicago – Yes, Asparagus!

March 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

We may gripe about the troubles of getting local food in the Spring, but that never stops us from getting local food in Spring. We know from Jeannie Boutelle’s excellent weekly Local Calendar that there are enough places to get local food in the Chicago area, including some farmer’s markets as well as stores like Green Grocer Chicago. What can we find there?

We remember a time, several years ago, when our Spring CSA from Farmer Vicki’s Westerhoff’s Genesis Growers had asparagus in April. April, and late April, we never remember seeing asparagus in a CSA box or at a Chicago area farmer’s market before April. Yet this Saturday, March 31, our sources suggest that Farmer Vicki will have asparagus at Green City Market. We also hear of other area farms like Ellis and Mick Klug having asparagus this weekend. Wow! We love combining asparagus with eggs, and we will probably eat our first asparagus under some fried local eggs. Once we get a little motivated to do more with our asparagus, we will probably use a simple Sauce Mimosa. Recipe below.

Asparagus storage notes: There are several reasons why local asparagus tastes so much better, but probably the most important reason is the speed our area farmers can get the stalks to the market.  Asparagus starts to lose its succor as soon as its cut, so you need to eat it as soon as is it’s cut.  We advise eating or freezing your asparagus as soon as you can–see these lessons from Beetnik Michael Morowitz for tips on freezing asparagus.  If you do keep it around, it stays best, pointed up, in a little water.

In addition to asparagus, we expect to see many other early season crops in the Chicago weekend on this last weekend of March. These include early forms of onion, green garlic, rocket, lettuces, radishes, cold hearty herbs like cilantro and lovage, rhubarb, and Asian greens like Napa cabbage and bok choi. We think there may be some hoop-house items too like turnips and beets. If we’re lucky, there will also be over-wintered crops like leeks, spinach, parsnips, sunchokes, and carrots. Finally, you should also expect a certain amount of storage crops including apples, potatoes and celery root.

What about the real treasures of Spring, harbingers like ramps, the in the moment stinging nettles and  fiddlehead ferns. Morel mushrooms. We know that these items and other wild plants like watercress and garlic mustard may show up at area markets, we really cannot guarantee you will show up somewhere and find them. If you do find this kind of Spring, please share with us.

Do note also, the products of this very early season may be limited. Take advantage still of items like tiny greens/sprouts, cultivated mushrooms and canned tomatoes. Still, get your hands on some asparagus and try it with Sauce Mimosa.

    Asparagus with Sauce Mimosa

Prepare first, Sauce Mimosa with the following ingredients

2 hard boiled eggs (we like ours just barely set, about 8 minutes)

Juice of 1 lemon or key lime

1 TBSP Sherry Vinegar

Olive oil

Minced herbs, lovage if you got it

Separate the white from the yolk with the egg. Mince both. Mush the egg yolk in a small bowl with the lemon juice and sherry vinegar, drizzle in some oil to make a thick sauce. Add the chopped egg whites and minced herbs to the bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Then, boil your asparagus in salted water until fork tender, about 5 minutes.

Spoon sauce over cooked asparagus.