Farm fresh asparagus smothered in a black garlic cream sauce.
It's officially asparagus season here in Alberta! I am especially excited for this year because I can FINALLY harvest my own spears!
When you plant asparagus, you play the waiting game. In order to achieve healthy and thriving plants, harvests should be avoided until the third year if you started with bare roots, fourth year if started from seed. It may seem like asking a lot from a gardener, plant a crop and nurture it for YEARS before you can actually reap the rewards, but believe me it is worth it!
I planted my roots three years ago now. At the time, asparagus was completely new to me - I loved to eat it but I had never attempted to grow it before. To start, I dug a trench using our skidsteer and soaked my roots prior to planting. Then, I laid them out in the bottom of the trench and buried them. It took FOREVER for them to start poking out of the ground. It was an exceptionally dry spring that year so I think they may have been stalled because of that. The first signs of life had me jumping for joy! My very own asparagus patch!
For the most part, this is a relatively low-maintenance crop. Once the roots are planted, it's just a matter of keeping the weeds at bay and a little spring clean up. Asparagus does require frequent watering, especially as young, tender plants, but so far that hasn't been an issue with the rainy summers we've had lately. I love the fact that it comes back year after year, and if you have female plants, you'll see tiny red berries that form in the fall and can help bolster your crop by self-seeding!
In the years since planting, I've done my very best not to pick any spears that come up, although I will admit to tasting a few - I just couldn't resist! There is now a noticeable difference in spear production with each passing year. What started as one or two per plant, has multiplied to a full clump of many, many tender shoots! This is the year to start enjoying the fruits of my labour, while keeping in mind not to over-harvest so the plants can continue to grow stronger. Asparagus is a long-term commitment, but once it is well established, you will have fresh asparagus for decades!
I've always cherished those first spring veggies that you can harvest early, probably because of how long and cold our winters are. Anything that is fresh and green by May is a welcome change, but I do think asparagus ranks in my top 5 favourite vegetables! I already have big plans to expand my patch, especially after being able to taste the difference in fresh over store bought!
As always, I look for ways to incorporate our garlic products with my garden produce and was really happy with how this recipe turned out!
Asparagus with Black Garlic Bechamel Sauce
15-20 fresh asparagus spears
For the sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 bulb black garlic, cloves peeled and chopped finely
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
Salt & pepper, to taste
In a shallow frying pan, place asparagus with just enough water to cover. Cover with lid and cook over medium heat until asparagus changes colour to a dark green. Watch carefully as it will cook fast.
Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan melt the butter and then add the flour. Whisk together and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes.
Gradually add the milk and whisk to incorporate until smooth. Stir in chopped black garlic and granulated garlic. Cook over low heat for several minutes until sauce thickens.
Drizzle sauce over steamed asparagus.