The home garden is already showing signs of activity. Overwintered kale and arugula plants are springing back to life, enough for a quick salad. Cool weather seeds that I’ve sown early: peas, turnips, radishes, broccoli raab, and others are sprouting. But nothing says the gardening season is here like my patch of homegrown asparagus taking off!
Granted, a few shoots breaking through the soil doesn’t qualify as “taking off,” but it’s an exciting time of the year in the home garden.
Asparagus is really easy to grow. You just need the space, and the plants practically do the rest. Space them about a foot apart, and before you know it, you will have a vast network of tasty stalks sprouting through the soil every spring. They are so much better than anything you can buy in a supermarket.
In the start of the growing season, the stalks don’t even make it into the house. I cut them and just eat them straight out of the garden. Eventually, they make the move to the kitchen, where I love to simply place them on a baking sheet and drizzle a little olive oil over them. Salt and pepper…and then in a 400-degree oven until they’ve caramelized.
Midway through the season, I have so much asparagus that I just don’t know what to do with them all. My friends don’t want anymore and I can’t bear to throw them into the compost pile. So I pickle them…a really easy process that ensures I’ve got delicious asparagus year-round.
Several bunches of asparagus spears
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups water
Garlic cloves, peeled
Salt (1 teaspoon per quart-sized Mason jar. Use less for smaller jars.)
Bring vinegar, water, sugar and peppercorns to a boil.
Trim bottom of asparagus spears so that spears are just slightly shorter than the height of the quart-sized Mason jar you will use. Or cut into pieces that will fit smaller jars.
Pack jars as tightly as you can with asparagus spears. (They will shrink when processed.) Add garlic clove and 1 teaspoon of salt to every quart-sized Mason jar…less for smaller jars.
Fill jars with vinegar mixture and seal.
Process jars for 10 minutes. Let cool before placing in refrigerator.
WHY DOES YOUR PEE SMELL WHEN YOU EAT ASPARAGUS?Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan. It is also found in onions, garlic, rotten eggs, and in the secretions of skunks. The signature smell occurs when this substance is broken down in your digestive system. Not all people have the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan, so some of you can eat all the asparagus you want without stinking up the place. One study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that only 46 percent of British people tested produced the odor while 100 percent of French people tested did. (It has to do with your DNA.)