Asparagus Gouda TartPhoto Credit : Styled and Photographed by Liz Neily
Asparagus is such an unusual plant, primeval in appearance, a perennial vegetable in a world of annuals (only rhubarb and ramps share that designation in New England’s growing zones). Properly tended, asparagus beds can produce fresh stalks for up to 30 years. And yet for all this exoticism, many New Englanders know asparagus as the very local plant that made Hadley, Massachusetts, famous. The so-called Hadley Grass thrived in the rich alluvial soils there and became celebrated around the world. That heritage lives on today, culminating every year on the first Saturday in June with the New England Public Media Asparagus Festival on the Hadley town common.
The best asparagus is the just-picked kind from the farmers’ market or your own backyard. When shopping, look for firm, smooth stalks that can stand up straight. The color should be bright green. Any thickness is fine, but choose uniform bunches so that you can cook them evenly. To store, trim the stalks and stand them up in about an inch of water at room temperature for a couple of days. Then use this delicious vegetable in any number of ways: simply roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper; grilled; blanched in salads; or in this pretty tart with Gouda, black pepper, and ample shavings of lemon zest.