Monday, April 21, 2008

Ten Dollar Asparagus

A week or so ago, the local food co-op sported some lovely asparagus in their produce section. I've eaten asparagus out-of-season before, so was unfazed by this bunch's origin, California. Also, some asparagus risotto seemed like a good antidote to the winter that would not end.

Sticker shock at the cash register: that little bunch of green cost almost $10!!! I noticed the price when the cashier rang it up and asked her to double-check it. Nope, that was the correct amount for a little over a pound of asparagus. Did I still want it?

If I had noticed the price beforehand, I would have rejected it, but throwing it back now felt too much like a statement ("I'm not paying exorbitant prices for organically grown asparagus!") I took it home, making a mental note not to let it rot in the back of the refrigerator like that last bunch of asparagus I bought.

I'm in the midst of reading (well, listening to, on CD) Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She asserts asparagus should be eaten fresh, the same day it's cut, for optimum flavor. I have never had asparagus that fresh, at least not to my knowledge, but this California bunch definitely supported her argument: it was awful!

When I was married, I grew all our family's vegetables in a huge organic garden, but I never bothered with asparagus because my husband hated it. He could be tricked into eating cauliflower by disguising it under a creamy cheese sauce, but asparagus is difficult to pass off as anything but what it is. But it's just me now, and I love asparagus, so maybe a small bed is in order.

But first. I have decided to go ahead and whack the silver maples in the backyard. This decision was not made without much angst, especially since once they are gone, my personal tree lot will consist of one King Crimson maple (the slowest growing tree in the world) in the front yard. But the removal of those four silvers will not only eliminate the problems they have become, it will totally transform my backyard. No more sunshine constraints!

I have lived here for about 16 years, and year by year, the available light in the backyard has been shrinking. The shade has been lovely for the Florida room and deck, but not so lovely for the grass that won't grow or the flowers that won't bloom or the vegetables that won't thrive. I will plant replacement trees, more appropriate ones in better locations, but I am also going to take advantage of that abundant sunshine.

And one way to do that would be to plant me an asparagus patch.

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