Growing Asparagus and Rhubarb

Growing Asparagus and Rhubarb @ Common Sense Homesteading

It’s that time of year – no, not Christmas, it the time when the seed catalogs start coming in the mail! While you brainstorm next year’s plantings, consider growing asparagus and rhubarb.  Because these perennials live for years, they are worth the time investment.  They often provide the first garden harvest of the year.  You may not even need to plant asparagus, as it grows wild in some places.

If you’ve never had fresh picked asparagus  – steamed, stir fried, or even raw – you’ve missed how good asparagus can be.  I would say the flavor is kind of like snap peas, but different in a good way. Here in northwest Wisconsin it grows wild in places, along fence lines and under power lines where birds plant the seeds after they eat the fruit during the summer. The mature plants are the easiest to spot along roads and walking sunny fence lines. You can map them out and then come back in the spring. This is what last year’s mature plants look like: [Read more…]

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Preserving Asparagus Three Ways – Freezing, Drying and Lacto-Fermenting

Preserving Asparagus Three Ways - Freezing, Drying and Lacto-Fermenting

I had the opportunity to babysit my neighbors asparagus patch for two weeks earlier this season, and I was blessed with a bounty of asparagus like I have never seen.  The photo above was just one picking – and it kept coming!  For those who are not asparagus savvy, you need to keep the spears harvested during the production season, otherwise they will get tall and produce seed, and you will have no more asparagus to harvest.  Thus, I was over picking every two to three days to keep the plants producing.  The neighbors have a lovely 100+ year old farmhouse, and four different asparagus patches around the yard.  As I was picking, the fresh spears looked so good that I decided to try one raw for the first time.  It was really good!  It tasted very much like fresh picked green peas, without much of the stronger “asparagus” taste that puts many people off.  I ate several more.  :-)  Since there was such a bounty, I used several methods of preserving asparagus. [Read more…]

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Asparagus and Rhubarb

cut rhubarb

In spite of our cool weather, spring-bearing perennials such as asparagus and rhubarb have been producing tasty edibles. The rhubarb patches are largely unhampered by the cold. We don’t have a patch at our current location, but the neighbors are always happy to share. Once a patch is well-established, I have yet to meet anyone who has been interested in using up their entire patch production. I enjoy the tartness combined with some sweetness, and sometimes some dairy. Mine usually goes into sauce (lovely on toast or ice cream), muffins (these freeze well and stay nice and moist) or desserts (I have a rhubarb custard recipe that everyone in the family likes).

Asparagus is also in season, but the cold has slowed it down significantly. I’m garden tending for neighbors who are traveling for a couple of weeks, and part of my job is to find the asparagus spikes (they have patches scattered around the yard) and harvest them so they don’t go to seed too early. Most sources I’ve seen suggest harvesting for around three weeks before allowing the spikes to grow out and flower to put energy into the roots for the following season. With the dry May we had, some of the first spikes harvested were a little bitter, and they were few and far between in the patch. Since the rain, growth has picked up and the flavor has sweetened back to normal.

Fresh local asparagus is an entirely different vegetable than the store bundles shipped from across the country. If you’ve never been an asparagus fan, you need to try fresh, locally grown. The taste is more like garden peas with just hint of asparagus “wildness”. Good and good for you, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy these spring treats.

Pork with Rhubarb Sauce recipe 

3 lb Pork loin center rib roast (8 ribs)
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper; coarsely ground
1/2 lb Rhubarb, fresh; chopped (2 cups)
1/4 cup Apple juice concentrate; thawed
2 Tablespoon Honey
Nutmeg, ground
2 Tablespoon Water
1 teaspoon Cornstarch

Have the butcher loosen the pork roast backbone, if possible, for easier carving. Rub the roast with salt and pepper. Place bone side down in a small, shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the roast; make sure bulb doesn’t touch bone, fat, or the pan. Roast, uncovered, at 325 F. until the thermometer reads 150 F., about 75 to 90 minutes.
For the sauce, in a medium saucepan stir together the rhubarb, apple juice concentrate, honey, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat, cover, and simmer ten minutes or until the rhubarb is very tender. Mix the water and cornstarch; stir into the rhubarb mixture. Cook and stir until the sauce is thickened and bubbly. Continue cooking for two minutes more.
When the meat thermometer registers 150 F., spoon some of the sauce over the roast. Continue roasting until the thermometer reads 170 F., about 30 to 45 minutes more. Spoon on additional sauce occasionally. Let the roast stand 15 minutes before carving. Heat any remaining sauce and pass with the roast.

Cream of Asparagus Soup recipe

1/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups water
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed chicken broth or homemade chicken broth
4 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder

1 potato, peeled and diced
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and
coarsely chopped
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1. Melt butter or margarine in a heavy cooking pot. Add onions and chopped celery; saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in flour, mixing well. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Do not burn, or let it go lumpy. Add water, chicken broth, and chicken soup base; stir until smooth. Bring to a boil. Add diced potatoes and chopped asparagus. Reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
2. Puree soup in a food processor or blender in batches. Return to pot.
3. Stir in half and half cream, soy sauce, and black and white pepper. Bring soup just to boil. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot.

Ready In: 1 Hour
Servings: 6

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