It’s here, at least according to the calendar. Yesterday marked the first day of spring, but if you were only looking at the thermometer, you’d never know. It still feels very much like winter. Except, it’s not, and it’s not just the calendar that’s saying so. It’s the asparagus.
Some years ago I was walking through the field of my family’s farm when, for no particular reason, I stopped in my tracks and looked down into the early spring grasses. There, right in front of me, was a single spear of asparagus. It was poking its way through the thawing ground, reaching toward the sun. The thing about asparagus is that is has to be planted at some point. Then every spring, it shoots up new stalks. And each plant can live upwards of 30 years, some as long as 50. This single spear of asparagus came from a plant, probably planted by my grandfather, before I was born. I think that’s pretty cool.
I dug the plant up (it’s called a crown, but looks like a clump of roots) and planted it inside the garden fence so I could find it the next spring; and all around it I planted new asparagus crowns. The following spring, my grandfather’s asparagus shot its one stalk up, and my new plants followed suit, sending up first-year shoots—too thin to even eat. Every year they get a little more established and thicker, and this week, I discovered the first of this year’s crop—four pencil-thin stalks of asparagus.
I will be able to eat a bumper crop of the asparagus I planted in my lifetime, but there’s a good chance these plants will be enjoyed by my family, maybe even after I’m gone, and, I think that’s pretty cool too.
When you’ve only got four, pencil-thin stalks of asparagus, make them count by featuring them as the star on an open-faced egg sandwich.
Asparagus Breakfast Sandwich
(Makes 1 Sandwich)
4 pencil-thin spears of asparagus
1 piece baguette
1 tablespoon cream cheese
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 large egg
Place the asparagus in a skillet with salted room temperature water and bring up to a simmer over medium heat. As soon as the water simmers, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop the cooking.
Toast the bread and smear the cream cheese on top, the place the asparagus on top. Fry the egg in the butter and place it on top of the sandwich. Season with salt and pepper to taste.