There’s a certain excitement that comes from eating seasonally. All that waiting for crops to come in, all that anticipation of new recipes to try. The buzz is even greater with a short-season crop like asparagus, which is in and out in the relative blink of an eye.
Even kids understand the excitement. This week my five-year-old and I went to our CSA to pick asparagus and on the row next to us we overheard another little boy exclaim, “Mommy, it’s just like Halloween!” In his mind, he was being given treats for free, only instead of wrapped candy bars from neighbors he was getting asparagus from the ground.
As my son and I braved blustery winds and 45-degree temps to bend and snap our own asparagus spears, I thought more about the little boy’s comment. Halloween is about the element of surprise, and so is picking vegetables. You don’t know what the crop is going to be like. You don’t know what the weather will be. You don’t know if you’ll get 5 pounds or 10. Such uncertainty adds to the fun. (That is, as long as you’re dressed for it. My three-year-old decided it was too cold and hopped back in the car with grandma.)
At home with pounds and pounds of freshly-picked asparagus, we tried a recipe for Asparagus Pesto from that day’s New York Times. I tossed the pungent sauce with leftover sauteed chicken and whole-wheat spaghetti and everyone loved it. I did make a few changes to the recipe, however. First, I cooked the tips separately and added them to the dish upon tossing for more color and pure asparagus flavor. I also substituted toasted walnuts for pine nuts and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for regular (the recipe calls for 1/4 cup, which seems excessive). Third, I used 1/2 cup parmesan instead of 3/4 cup to help the sauce coat the noodles, plus a little more lemon juice. And if your kids are sensitive to garlic, use a small clove because this recipe, like any pesto, packs a garlic punch.