Spring is finally upon us and it is time for that yearly tradition of spring cleaning, but this year isn’t just about cleaning out closets and washing floors. It is time to also do some spring cleaning of our cabinets and fridges. Get rid of that moldy container on the bottom shelf that everyone always claims is “their roommate’s,” toss the stale bread to the birds and get ready for fresh new foods to fill this spring quarter.
Spring foods always make me smile. The winter brings warm, hearty foods that are comforting — for a season. But then as I suck in all my air and just barely squeeze myself into last month’s new jeans, I once again sigh in relief knowing the light and delicious flavors of spring are once again making their way into my shopping basket. There are so many great spring treasures, but asparagus and strawberries always top my shopping list — separate, together or whatever, as long as they end up on my kitchen table.
Asparagus are fiber-rich spears that add elegance to any dish. The spears come from a crown that is not harvested for three years to ensure a fully-developed root system. After harvest, the crown will continue to produce for nearly fifteen years without replanting.
Like many other vegetables, asparagus makes its claim to fame by being extremely low in calories while still providing numerous nutrients including fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and thiamin. What really gives it an edge in the current state of health affairs is their strong ties to the Mediterranean diet. Asparagus itself is a Greek word meaning “shoot” or “stalk.” It was first cultivated by the Greeks 2,500 years ago and was then spread throughout the rest of Europe through the Roman conquest, and eventually made its way to us.
These veggies are great finger food for any spring celebration. Want to impress your friends but only have a few minutes? Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and popped into the oven will have everyone blown away with almost no effort on your part.
Then there is the strawberry, the perfect jewel nature gives us to remind us that the sun is here to stay — although it hardly ever leaves us in the lucky little town of San Luis Obispo. Strawberries are historical products of both the Old and New Worlds — in other words, they naturally grow both in the Americas and in Europe, although in different varieties. Three hundred years ago, the South American species was brought to Europe and crossbred with a European variety and resulted in the garden strawberry that is most popularly consumed today.
The key to proper strawberry consumption is to keep it fresh. These berries do not stay well, even in the fridge. It is important to only wash them right before you eat them, and it is best to eat them quickly — this has never been a difficult task for me.
Now to convince you that strawberries and asparagus (together) really do pair nicely. At first it seems like an unlikely pair, but consider their background. The asparagus coming from a crown and the strawberry as pretty as a jewel taken from a crown, it’s almost by divine right that they should rule your Spring menu.
If you don’t believe me on good faith, then I encourage you to take a culinary risk and try putting the two together with a little balsamic vinegar and honey and cooking them over the stove just until tender. I’m absolutely convinced that after, you’ll see why these are a spring match made in heaven.