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The First Treasure From the Garden: Asparagus

Yesterday I started my first day of work at my new employer, J&B Ketcheson Asparagus Farm, which is a local operation run out of a local’s garage in Frankford, Ontario. It is located a hop, skip, and a jump away from my house, so close that I can walk up the road to get there. I arrived a little early and met the owner, Jack Ketcheson, who is easily pushing 85-90 years old and running the place like a young lad! He showed me the ropes and I began my day by taking the wheelbarrow down to the field and picked up several crates of freshly picked asparagus. When we returned, there was already a short line of customers waiting and the sign to say that the farm was open for the season wasn’t even posted yet! People stalk out this farm because it is the freshest stuff around and practically the only thing growing in Ontario at this time of year, with the exception of the small amount of rhubarb that they have for sale as well.

My day continued by washing asparagus and then bringing it back into the garage. From here the asparagus is loaded individually onto a conveyor belt and sent through a sharp blade which cuts off the woody purplish ends of the stalk. Then it is sorted according to grade and thickness and packaged in pound and five pound bundles. Each bundle is placed in a container with a few inches of water in it and then rests inside a cooler until it is sold. Most of the asparagus doesn’t even make it to the cooler because it is sold almost as soon as it is bagged! I kid you not, you can’t get anything fresher than the asparagus grown here.

The focus of my blog obviously is going to be asparagus because I am bringing home at least 5 pounds of the stuff every other day and because it is the seasonal veggie around these parts. Since rhubarb is also up now I will include some rhubarb recipes as well.

The first day I brought home a huge shopping bag full of the “curlies,” which is a fancy term for the rejects or the stalks that are not “pretty” enough to sell. The taste is not sacrificed by any means, totally cosmetic. Even vegetables face the same torment as people… what a harsh life. The recipe below is best served with the freshest asparagus you can find, uncooked, just washed. Enjoy and feel free to post/suggest any recipes you might have as well!
Sour Cream Horseradish Dip
Recipe From:
Makes: 1/2 cup of dip

1 to 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
250 mL sour cream
60 mL bread crumbs
20 mL garlic scape, minced (or 1 glove garlic, minced)
20 mL horseradish
pepper to taste

1. Combine the ingredients for the dip together in a medium bowl.
2. Serve with the asparagus.

The recipe below is best when the asparagus is quickly blanched, but be careful not to overcook it! We ate it as a side for barbequed Italian sausage and it was delicious! It is best when given ample time to chill allowing for the flavors to blend. I would also recommend adding another squeeze of lemon juice before serving!

Asparagus with Cherry Tomatoes
Recipe From: Simply Delicious
Makes: 6 servings

Salad Ingredients:
1 pound of asparagus washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup diced mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil sliced (I used 1 TBS dried)

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBS balsalmic vinegar
1 clove garlic minced
1 TBS lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt/ pepper to taste

Directions:1. Wash asparagus and blanch for 3 minutes in boiling water. Immediately rinse with cold water.
2. Mix asparagus, tomato, cheese, onion, and basil.
3. Whisk dressing ingredients and pour onto veggies.
4. Chill until serving time and add another splash of lemon juice before serving.

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