green asparagus by caliberSomeone once said, after having driven past about the tenth asparagus stand in as many kilometers, “ceux qui ne veulent pas d’asperges ici doivent vraiment faire exprés”–“if you don’t want asparagus around here, you really have to do it on purpose.”

asparagus before
Should we call it tame asparagus?

It seems that at every intersection of country roads, there’s a car or truck (the vigneron kind of camionette, not pickups), with a table set up alongside, piled with asparagus. White, green, every dimension from thicker than a thumb to thinner than a pencil.

However, they disappear as quickly as they come. Asparagus season starts in late March and is over by May. As a result, we eat asparagus three or four times a week for the “big month” that we can get it fresh. (I say “big month,” because that’s how the French refer to a little more than a month. A little more than an hour is a “big hour.” A little more than a kilo is a “big kilo.” It works the other way, too: just under an hour is a “little hour”–une petite heure.)

It’s kind of like sweet corn in the Midwest, where folks pig out on it while it lasts and they wouldn’t dream of buying an off-season substitute. Only local and fresh–hence in season–will do.

One of the ways we pig out on asparagus is by roasting it. Nothing could be easier. The longest part is preheating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, that’s the first step.

Rosemary
The rosemary that tried to take over Aude

Just snap off the woody parts of the asparagus. Oil a baking sheet. Spread the clean asparagus on the sheet and drizzle on more oil. Toss with your fingers to spread the oil over the asparagus. Spread them out in a single layer. Sprinkle a little sea salt and pepper. I set a few sprigs of fresh rosemary over the top, which gives a little flavor without having nasty rosemary spikes between your teeth. Roast for 8-10 minutes, but keep a close eye in case your oven cooks faster. There will be a few browned parts, with the rest tender and juicy. Yum.

asparagus after
So simple, so delicious

Roasting like this works for all kinds of veggies, from cauliflower to broccoli to green beans. A nice way to change things up with minimal effort. You can get fancy with herbs or garlic, but really, good veggies stand on their own, too.

The absolutely easiest way to do asparagus is to break off the woody parts, wash it, spread the asparagus across a microwavable plate, top with a sprig or two of rosemary if you feel like it, cover with microwavable film or a plastic cover and nuke it for 4-7 minutes, depending on how much asparagus you have. Remove the rosemary if you used it, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil AFTER you’ve cooked it. Microwaving is supposed to be the method of cooking that best preserves the nutrients in vegetables, and it’s quick to boot.

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16 thoughts on “Des asperges d’avril

  1. Mince, je pensais voir tes lunettes Anne&Valentin (suite à ton message chez Garance Doré), je suis rentrée bredouille de chez eux…
    Mais les asperges, c’est si bon et ça dure si peu longtemps!!!

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  2. When in France I’ve been served asparagus several times in a row when invited to friends’ houses in season. It’s definitely popular on a different scale than here in the US! Local and fresh is always so wonderful.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  3. I haven’t tried asparagus this way, but I can picture all of the stands and the backs of cars filled with asparagus. The thick white asparagus freaks me out a little, but I have become a big asparagus fan. We are even growing some in our backyard.
    Your link on Dreaming of France worked perfectly. Thanks for joining in. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

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  4. We put asparagus on the barbecue….roasted or broiled…it is fantastic.
    I have never had white asparagus. Is it milder in flavour?

    Ali

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  5. I guess it’s milder. I think it’s more in the way it’s prepared, often with hollondaise sauce. More cooked.
    It sounds good on the grill, but isn’t it a job to keep it from falling between the grates?

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    1. We have a stainless steel veggie grill that has holes….you put that on top of the grille….it has a handle…perfect veggies every time.

      Ali

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      1. Aha! We just tried doing calçots, the spring onions that Andorrans put on the grill. Turned out OK, but would have been easier with an extra veggie grill.

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  6. You have conjured up a wonderful picture in my mind of the vans with their tables bowing under the strain of the Asparagus , my ex Father in law used to grow them and so they were free and in abundance cooked simply with butter drizzled over and new potatoes, you either love or hate them.

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  7. My parents had some long ago in the garden. And my husband used to grow the white ones, and endives, in the crawlspace under the previous house! White asparagus are white because they aren’t exposed to the sun.
    BTW, asparagus can grow 10 inches in 24 hours! which leads to the expression, usually directed at kids, that they are growing like asparagus.

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  8. You really have to peel the white asparagus, which are also a specialty here in the Loire Valley. They grow well and abundantly in the sandy soil of the Sologne region, within shouting distance of Saint-Aignan. I’ve had them served to me by novices who hadn’t peeled them — don’t make that mistake.

    Now there is a movement toward green asparagus as well among farmers up here, near the Château de Chambord and the big town of Blois. I actually prefer the fat white asparagus, and no, they don’t absolutely have to be served with a sauce. They are good, though, with vinaigrette or fresh-made mayonnaise. And of course, asparagus like all vegetables are delicious with a little melted butter.

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    1. There are those who say that the fatter the asparagus, the better, and hence the white ones, being fattest, would be the most sought-after. However, we like the thin ones. Luckily there are all kinds for all tastes. As you say, the white ones (and even the fat green kind) need to be peeled.

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