Nothing says spring like asparagus. Pasta primavera, tender spears wrapped in prosciutto and oven-roasted, asparagus served with eggs Benedict for a Mother’s Day brunch…yes. Asparagus is the first taste of spring.
I didn’t realize it until I worked with the Idaho Department of Agriculture on an ad last month, but asparagus grows like a weed here in Idaho. Old-timers can remember picking it from where it grew in irrigation ditches alongside the highway, cutting big bundles of the stuff and then eating their fill.
Today, it doesn’t grow wild so much, but it does grow well in southern Idaho. The first spears show their heads around mid-March, and the season continues until early June. The spears can grow up to eight inches in one day, and every spear has to be picked and processed by hand. It’s amazing, that with all the technology in the world, no one has invented a machine that can pick asparagus spears of only a certain length.
I spoke with both a grower and a retailer for that ad, and when I asked their favorite ways to cook asparagus, they unanimously said they preferred it simply grilled, with a little fat, a little salt, and a little seasoning. Especially when the asparagus is local, you don’t want to smother the flavor with hollandaise sauce or overcook those tender spears.
When you make this, pick big, fat spears — contrary to popular belief, the fat spears are actually younger than the slender ones (they thin as they grow). If you think the bottoms will be too woody, you can peel a bit of the skin off the end with a vegetable peeler to help them cook.
Whatever you do, don’t be afraid of the butter, the salt, or the lemon. You need that blend to bring out the fresh flavors.
- 1 bunch asparagus, the fatter the better
- 2 Tbsp good butter, cubed
- salt to taste (a few pinches)
- juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 2 Tbsp chives, minced
- Pepper to taste
- Turn on grill and turn heat to high. Make a boat out of foil or line a grill veggie basket with foil. Trim asparagus, and place spears in the basket or boat. Distribute butter cubes over spears and salt with a good-sized pinch.
- Place basket on top level of the grill, if you have one. Close grill and cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on the fatness of your spears. Remove when tender, but still a little crisp.
- Place spears on a serving plate. Drizzle with lemon juice, sprinkle on chives, and add pepper and salt if desired. Serve immediately — and feel free to eat with your fingers.