Ultra-fresh asparagus spears at Full Moon
The first show we're putting together is really about the harbingers of spring. Things like ramps and greens and, of course, asparagus. Yes we all know asparagus makes your pee smell a little funny, but that's a small consequence on what is an otherwise amazing ingredient. Even while the rest of the garden tries to shake off the winter blahs, asparagus shoots pierce the soil like bayonets in an attempt to harvest that early spring sunshine. If you've never snapped off an asparagus spear and eaten it raw straight from the garden, you're missing something. Compared to the grocery store variety, garden fresh asparagus is plump and full of liquid.
Huitt stalking the asparagus in High Definition
Growing asparagus does require a bit of an investment on the farmer's behalf. The plants take a few years to mature, are hungry for nutrients (good, rich organic material), and only produce usable spears for a short amount of time. So a lot of time, space, and energy go into producing a relatively small crop, but thankfully enough farmers make the effort.
Our search for asparagus brought us to a little farm in Athens that's doing things right. The Full Moon Cooperative not only practices sustainable farming, they also have a CSA (community supported agriculture) that grows for about 100 families AND they have a restaurant whose menu utilizes the farm's bounty. Pretty groovy. It sounds like somewhat of a radical concept (and in today's market, perhaps it is), but ultimately it's a return to form on how food was once raised. The farmer had a constant dialogue with his consumer and treated the land as the biodynamic, living, organic thing that it really is. For whatever political, economic, or social reasons (and there are many), many farmers had to make the switch to large scale, single crop agriculture in order to survive. That mode of farming requires an abundant supply of water, fertilizers, and fuel and is taxing on the soil. It's nice to see that there is a movement to return to that more biodynamic, sustainable model of agriculture and Full Moon's CSA and restaurant example is one worth supporting.
Thunk...thunk (that's the sound of me getting off of my soapbox)
What was I talking about...oh yeah...asparagus! Farm 255 (the restaurant face of Full Moon) invited us over for some chilled asparagus soup with chervil (both harvested that day at the farm). If you're ever in the Athens area (made famous by the B-52's and REM...oh and I think there's some University there), make it a point to go to Farm 255. You will scarcely find a fresher experience unless you harvest and prepare your own produce. They also do all of their own animal husbandry, which means that any meats on the menu were sourced from their own animals. The menu is dictated by what is available, which means it may only be limited to four or five items each day, but that's the point. The menu is created each and every day from what the farm has provided or what can be sourced from other local farmers. What a concept. And to top it all off, it's downright good. These are people that take pride in their craft and respectfully utilize the resources they're so fortunate to have.
Chilled asparagus soup at Farm 255
Once again I've gotten away from asparagus. Let's talk about what to do with them. I loathe limp asparagus. As with any food, you'll find sweeping differences of opinion, but I'm somewhat of a purist when it comes to most things green. Butter or olive oil, sea salt, maybe a bit of onion or garlic (or both), lemon and some fire and you're done. My kids love them, possibly because they're allowed to eat them with their fingers, but more likely because it makes their pee smell funny...