Asparagus has an Alias

 

There is a lot of energy around asparagus in the spring. It’s one of the first crops out of the ground and a sign that the seasons are turning for good. Asparagus was really only established in Massachusetts in the 1920’s and the little town of Hadley started producing some of the highest quality asparagus in the world, and at one point was crowned the Asparagus Capital of the World.

For this asparagus, fondly known as Hadley grass, the secret is credited to the soil. The area is blessed with deep, sandy loam, the sediment of a glacial lake that once covered the valley, and this, combined with the cool New England weather provides a sweetness that’s incomparable.  From the 1920’s to the 1970’s, Hadley grass was the mainstay of the local Hadley economy, and an important source of community spirit. Townsfolk, young and old would gather to pick, sort, trim, and bunch around 50 tons of the vegetable each day--that’s a couple million spears a day! Kids were even pardoned from school during asparagus harvest. The asparagus would then be trucked to Boston for distribution.  It was also sent to restaurants throughout the North East, and on to London, Paris, and Germany, and was even on the menu for Queen Elizabeth II’s annual spring breakfast.

This delicious grass that comes in your share hails from a little closer to home, from the wonderful Busa Farm in Lexington, but is still fit for a Queen. Fran, the owner and farmer has been sharing this delight with us for a few weeks. He warns it won't last. Though we may be fond of the warm weather that is rolling in, the asparagus is not. 

Lastly, we would be remiss if we did not talk about one of asparagus's more disputed qualities:
Asparagus Pee: Is it Real? Or just Fake News?

Here at Family Dinner we like to tackle the topics that matter to you most. Like Asparagus Pee. Some people can smell it, some people can't. Some people claim that only a certain percentage of the population produces it while others don't.

After careful reading and research we are here to tell that: Asparagus pee is real. Everyone produces it but about only half of us can smell it. The cause of the odor is likely starts with asparagusic acid, a sulfur compound found only in asparagus. The different nose camps on who can smell is and who can't likely has to do with over 800 possible genetic mutations that effect smell receptors. Science! Read the whole article here.


WHAT'S IN THE BAG?

HALF SHARE

Omnivore Protein
 - Salmon from Red's Best; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Pescatarian Protein - Salmon from Red's Best; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Vegetarian Protein -  Pierogi from Jaju Pierogi; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Paleo Proteins -  Salmon from Red's Best; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Fruits and Veggies - Asparagus, Swiss Chard and Parsley from Busa Farm; Yellow onions from Brookford Farm;  Mini Persian Cucumbers from Five College Farms
Grain - Bagels from Iggy's Bread
Special Treat - Donut holes from Union Square Donuts


WHOLE SHARE

Omnivore Protein -  Salmon from Red's Best; Ground Beef from Feather Brook Farms; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Pescatarian Protein - Salmon and Skate from Red's Best; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Vegetarian Protein - Pierogi (two types!) from Jaju Pierogi; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Paleo Proteins -  Whole Chicken from Feather Brook Farms; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Fruits and Veggies - Asparagus, Swiss Chard, Rainbow Carrots and Parsley from Busa Farm; Yellow onions and Potatoes from Brookford Farm;  Mini Persian Cucumbers from Five College Farms
Grain - Bagels from Iggy's Bread
Special Treat - Donut holes from Union Square Donuts


DOUBLE SHARE

Omnivore Protein - Salmon from Red's Best; Ground Beef from Feather Brook Farms; Eggs and Breakfast Sausage from Brookford Farm
Pescatarian Protein - Salmon, Haddock Filet and Skate from Red's Best; Eggs from Brookford Farm
Fruits and Veggies - Asparagus, Swiss Chard, Rainbow Carrots and Parsley from Busa Farm; Yellow onions and Potatoes from Brookford Farm;  Mini Persian Cucumbers from Five College Farms
Grain - Bagels from Iggy's Bread; Pierogi from Jaju Pierogi
Special Treat - Donut holes from Union Square Donuts; Honey from Northwoods Apiaries


RECIPES

Asparagus Soup This iconic recipe calls for 2 pounds of asparagus so we will be cutting the ingredient list in half. An immersion blender, or regular blender will give you the rich smooth texture you are looking for.

Cucumber and Onion Salad This salad is a delightfully simple and clean addition to any fish dish. For your Persian Cucumbers, leave the skin on- just give it a good rinse. For the saline fiends in the crowd- finish with a nice pinch of Maldon salt.

Salmon en Papillotte Just because its French, doesn't mean its Fancy. This is just salmon in paper ( See? Way less sexy in English.) The Parchment paper sleeping bag steams the fish, keeping it moist while cooking it through. This is a great chance to brush off your 7th grade French and impress your friends.  Left over salmon belongs in a love triangle with bagels and quark. Its meant to be.

Skate with Herbs  Though this title sounds like the mildly illegal pass time of teenagers in California , this dish is simple and perfect. We have parsley from Fran at Busa to pair with the skate but throw in anything else that is calling from your fridge. Basil, Capers, Black or Green Olives, Garlic ... it will all light up the plate. 

Pierogi and Onions These delectable morsels come from Jaju Pierogi, handmade in Glouchester. They are heaven. From their site, they are also very simple to make:  "You can cook your pierogi frozen. Just place them in a pan with butter or oil on low to medium heat to start. Warm for five minutes. Then, slightly increase the heat to crisp."



TIPS AND TRICKS

Storing your Hadley Grass

Keeping your glorious asparagus crisp and fresh until you are ready to use it is essential. Neglect them when they first arrive and they will be wilted and pathetic when you need them most. The How-To on storing them is just 4 steps. Just do it. Your grass will thank you.

1. Leaving the rubber band on the bunch, cut the very ends off your spears. Just a half inch of the dry, woody part. Don't do the full snap off at this point. Save that wonderfully rewarding act until you are just ready to prep them. 

2. Fill glass jar or 2 cup measuring cup with a few inches of water.  Stand your asparagus up like the magnificent bouquet it is.

3. Cover lightly with a Ziploc or other plastic bag.

4. Gently sing it Michael McDonald tunes when you open the fridge to keep its spirits up.