Is there any more delicious sign of the arrival of spring than stunning farm fresh asparagus? If so, we sure haven’t tasted it! This annual passage is worth celebrating – and enjoying! – in all its forms for the scant few weeks each year when this delicately flavoured, lovely crunchy vegetable arrives in farmers markets and the produce section of your local food shop.
Like most great things in life, farming asparagus requires some patience and persistence. This perennial bulb usually takes 2-3 seasons before it bears any crop. That said, once established, it is a fairly hearty plant that seems to deal well with the challenging winter climate here in Canada. Like most food producing plants, asparagus doesn’t like wet conditions and performs best in well-drained, sandy soils.
Harvest begins each year, more or less once the spears begin to poke through the surface of the earth, with the youngest, newest growth offering the sweetest and most tender harvest. Most plants continue to produce asparagus you can eat for 2-3 weeks following the first pickings.
One of the great things about asparagus is its versatility in the kitchen – the only limit to its use and enjoyment is your imagination! From minimalist dishes with a bit of oil and lemon juice, to beautiful velvety green soups, to stunning side dishes or stellar crostini, asparagus is one of those magical ingredients that you can eat day after day after day…
Having extolled these virtues, one of the great challenges with asparagus is pairing it with wine. Like any deep green chlorophyll rich veg, some wines can be nasty pairings, so it is with some care and consideration that we offer some safe bets that will sing next to this spring favourite.
So, here we go – three of our favourite asparagus recipes, and a few wine suggestions try with them. Hope you enjoy!
An Old Classic: Asparagus w/ Hollandaise Sauce – Recipe
Wine Pairings: Sometimes there’s a reasons classics become classics, and in this case it’s because this is such a perfect and delicious combination of flavours. Alongside asparagus and hollandaise, I’d strongly recommend a Sauvignon Blanc based white like Sancerre or white Bordeaux. Great Sancerre (like this one) offer up bright, energetic citrus fruit flavours which pick up nicely on the lemony hollandaise, with plenty of refreshing acidity. On the other hand, Bordeaux whites with some Semillon and often a touch of oak aging (like this great choice) have a bit more body and weight and work extremely well with the creamy richness of the sauce. Either option offers a fabulous flavour combination – and my favourite way to celebrate the start of asparagus season!
Beautiful Velvety Asparagus Soup w/ Poached Eggs – Recipe
Wine Pairings: Have you heard the buzz about an emerging new white wine called Txakoli? Grown in the Basque country of northern Spain, this ever-so-slightly effervescent white is taking the wine world by storm. Often served locally in Spain as an aperitif or with seafood or light fish dishes in the coastal port villages of northern Spain, this is an outstanding choice next to a beautiful velvety fresh asparagus soup. Eric Asimov, of the New York Times, began to shine the light on these high altitude, cooler climate whites a few years ago (in this fantastic article) and interest has been growing in trendy wine bars and boutiques south of the border for a few years now. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Txakoli, do yourself a favour and pull up a glass with a bowl of asparagus soup over the coming weeks.
Asparagus Crostini w/ Goat Cheese & Porcini Mushrooms – Recipe
Wine Pairings: I’m not sure I can think of a dish more tailor-made for big, full-bodied masculine sparkling wine or Champagne, quite like this awesome nibbly. Rich Champagnes like Bollinger (here’s a delicious example) or the incredible Cava being produced at Recaredo (have you heard about these yet?) offer both the freshness and vitality to cut through the richness of the Chevre, and perfect complementary earthy mushrooms flavours to pair with the Porcini mushrooms. But what about the asparagus? Let’s put it this way… when I envision the perfect spring picnic, on a nice warm sunny afternoon with a giant plate of unadulterated perfectly steamed asparagus, somehow bubbly like this is the only wine I’d want to drink. Asparagus, Chevre & Porcini mushrooms; sounds like a holy trinity to me!