Sesame Asparagus

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I ♥ asparagus, and as far as I’m concerned, it is officially spring (even if my northern friends still have snow on the ground) when the price of asparagus goes below $3.00/pound. When we first moved to MCAS El Toro back in the late 1980s (before development started the creep which eventually contributed to local governments supporting the closing of the USMC bases in Orange County), we were surrounded by orange groves, strawberry fields and acres of asparagus. Have you seen asparagus fields?? The asparagus we’re accustomed to buying in the store or at a local farmer’s market grows one “stalk” at a time, straight up out of the ground.  I’m sure one reason it is so expensive is that the only way we ever saw it being harvested was by hand. The girls’ Grandma D. used to tease them by calling it “asper-grass”.

Found this information on Wikipedia:

Asparagus officinalis is a spring vegetable, a flowering perennial[1] plant species in the genus Asparagus. It was once classified in the lily family, like its Allium cousins, onions and garlic, but the Liliaceae have been split and the onion-like plants are now in the family Alliaceae and asparagus in the Asparagaceae. Asparagus officinalis is native to most of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia,[2][3][4] and is widely cultivated as a vegetable crop.

220px-Illustration_Asparagus_officinalis0b

This next paragraph falls under the “everyone wants to know, but they aren’t going to ask” category! ☺ I am, are you (one of the 22%)?? More interesting, but probably useless information from Wikipedia—The effect of eating asparagus on the eater’s urine has long been observed:

  • “[Asparagus] cause a filthy and disagreeable smell in the urine, as every Body knows.” (Treatise of All Sorts of Foods, Louis Lemery, 1702)[5]
  • “asparagus… affects the urine with a foetid smell (especially if cut when they are white) and therefore have been suspected by some physicians as not friendly to the kidneys; when they are older, and begin to ramify, they lose this quality; but then they are not so agreeable” (“An Essay Concerning the Nature of Aliments,” John Arbuthnot, 1735)[6]
  • Asparagus “…transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.” Marcel Proust (1871–1922) [7]

There is debate about whether all (or only some) people produce the smell, and whether all (or only some) people identify the smell. It was originally thought this was because some of the population digested asparagus differently from others, so some people excreted odorous urine after eating asparagus, and others did not. However, in the 1980s three studies from France,[8] China and Israel published results showing that producing odorous urine from asparagus was a universal human characteristic. The Israeli study found that from their 307 subjects all of those who could smell ‘asparagus urine’ could detect it in the urine of anyone who had eaten asparagus, even if the person who produced it could not detect it himself.[9] Thus, it is now believed most people produce the odorous compounds after eating asparagus, but only about 22% of the population have the autosomal genes required to smell them.[10][11][12]

Storage Issues, or, You May Think You Need Ft. Knox, But It Really Isn’t Necessary:

Have you ever brought some of that expensive asparagus home from the grocery store, not cooked it right away and then been dismayed to have to discard an limp bunch of limp graying greens which got buried in the produce drawer in your fridge? I came across this tip a long time ago and have successfully stored asparagus for days and days — it will stay fresh and crisp! So, next time you don’t plan on cooking asparagus the day you bring it home from the store (my favorite method is to steam it, top with a bit of salt and pepper and then make a meal out of it!), try this storage method:

  • keeping it bundled, cut ½ – 1 inch off the bottom – just enough to “open” it up
  • place in a container (something tall enough that it won’t tip over when you add water and the asparagus)
  • add a couple of inches of water
  • put it on the top shelf of your refrigerator – where you won’t forget about it!

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By now, everyone knows about our love for everything Gooseberry Patch. I adapted this recipe from their cookbook, Celebrate Spring (page 100). I love the subtitle of this cookbook:  “A freshly-gathered bouquet of tender recipes, brand new how-to’s and tempting tips for the joyous days of springtime.” Even after our relatively short, mild winters here in NW Florida we look forward to the dogwoods blooming and bursts of color from the azaleas!

 Ingredients

1 lb. fresh asparagus, woody stalks broken off and cut into approx. 2” lengths

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2 Tbsp. peanut oil (I used canola)

2 Tbsp. shallots, minced (I didn’t have shallots on hand, so just sliced some green onions)

1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

2 tsp. soy sauce

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Dash of lemon juice

Directions

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil and asparagus. Cook asparagus for about 4 minutes, stir and cook 3 more minutes. The asparagus will be slightly browned.

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Add the shallots (or green onions) and sesame seeds and cook, tossing the asparagus in the mixture for about 3 minutes. Add soy sauce and pepper, toss again, then transfer to serving plate and sprinkle with lemon juice.

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Can be served either warm as a vegetable side dish, or chilled as a salad.

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 And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”
 

  1.  Lison M, Blondheim SH, Melmed RN. (1980). “A polymorphism of the ability to smell urinary metabolites of asparagus”. Br Med J 281 (6256): 1676. doi:10.1136/bmj.281.6256.1676. PMC 1715705. PMID 7448566. Grubben, G.J.H.; Denton, O.A., eds (2004). Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 2. Vegetables. PROTA Foundation, Wageningen; Backhuys, Leiden; CTA, Wageningen. 
  2. “Asparagus officinalis”. Flora Europaea. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. http://rbg-web2.rbge.org.uk/cgi-bin/nph-readbtree.pl/feout?FAMILY_XREF=&GENUS_XREF=Asparagus&SPECIES_XREF=officinalis&TAXON_NAME_XREF=&RANK=. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  3. “Asparagus officinalis”. Euro+Med Plantbase Project. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem. http://ww2.bgbm.org/_EuroPlusMed/PTaxonDetail.asp?NameId=38660&PTRefFk=500000. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  4. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. “Asparagus officinalis”. Germplasm Resources Information Network. Beltsville, Maryland: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?300050. Retrieved 2010-05-19.
  5.  McGee, Harold (2004). “6”. McGee on Food and Cooking. Hodder and Stoughton. pp. 315. ISBN 0340831499.
  6. Arbuthnot J (1735). An Essay Concerning the Nature of Aliments 3rd ed.. J. Tonson. pp. 64261–262. 
  7. From the French “[…] changer mon pot de chambre en un vase de parfum,” Du côté de chez Swann, Gallimard, 1988.
  8. C. RICHER1, N. DECKER2, J. BELIN3, J. L. IMBS2, J. L. MONTASTRUC3 & J. F. GIUDICELLI (May 1989). “Odorous urine in man after asparagus”. Br J. Clin. Pharmac. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1379934&blobtype=pdf
  9. S. C. MITCHELL (May 1989). “Asparagus and malodorous urine”. Br J. Clin. Pharmac. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1379935&blobtype=pdf
  10.  “The scientific chef: asparagus pee”. The Guardian. September 23, 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/food/story/0,,1576765,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  11. Hannah Holmes. “Why Asparagus Makes Your Pee Stink”. Discover.com. http://www.discovery.com/area/skinnyon/skinnyon970115/skinny1.html
  12. Lison M, Blondheim SH, Melmed RN. (1980). “A polymorphism of the ability to smell urinary metabolites of asparagus”. Br Med J 281 (6256): 1676. doi:10.1136/bmj.281.6256.1676. PMC 1715705. PMID 7448566. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=7448566

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