While asparagus is not indigenous to New England (it comes from Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa), it’s so deeply rooted in the food culture here, so cherished as one of the first crops of late spring, that I think it qualifies as an honorary native. This is especially true in the fertile floodplains of […]
By Amy Traverso
May 30 2017
While asparagus is not indigenous to New England (it comes from Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa), it’s so deeply rooted in the food culture here, so cherished as one of the first crops of late spring, that I think it qualifies as an honorary native.
This is especially true in the fertile floodplains of Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley, where the Connecticut River deposits a fresh batch of sedimentary nutrients every spring. Beginning in the 1920s, farmers in Hadley—where asparagus is known as “Hadley grass”—invested so heavily in the crop that the town became known as the Asparagus Capital of the World (China is now the world’s leading producer). Other towns—Sunderland, Amherst, Hatfield, Whately—were part of this asparagus belt until the 1970s, when a soil-borne fungus wiped out much of the crop. It was a devastating loss. Asparagus beds take three years to mature, and most farmers turned to other crops, such as corn, tobacco, and, in recent years, wheat.
But some farmers held on, and others are coming back. So this heritage is still celebrated in early June at the WGBY Asparagus Festival in Amherst. Even if your travels don’t include Western Massachusetts, though, you can still make the most of the season with these recipes, which will take you from breakfast through lunch, appetizers, and dinner.
New Hampshire’s Finest Scramble Loaded with asparagus, bacon, and goat cheese, “New Hampshire’s Finest Scramble” is a breakfast favorite at The Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, NH. Don’t forget the side of anadama bread toast!
|Creamy Asparagus Quiche with Shallots and Mushrooms When planning a special brunch, you can’t beat the easy savory custard for this creamy asparagus quiche, which can be made a day ahead.|
|Lemony Asparagus-Dill Soup This Lemony Asparagus-Dill Soup recipe—an adaptation of the classic Greek egg-and-lemon soup—can be made a day ahead of time and served warm or cold.|
|Connecticut River Shad with Asparagus Once considered a “poor man’s” food, shad’s reputation as a delicacy has increased as the annual catch has dwindled. Using fresh asparagus, this recipe is a great way to prepare them.|
|Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus This asparagus recipe is essentially a two-ingredient dish, and it’s always a hit. If you do have any left over, serve it chilled in a salad.|
|Potato Salad with Asparagus When asparagus is in season, it’s hard to make a meal without it. We think potato salad with asparagus is the perfect summertime side dish.|
As Yankee’s senior food editor, Amy Traverso oversees the magazine’s food department and contributes to NewEngland.com. Amy’s book, The Apple Lover’s Cookbook (W.W. Norton), won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook award in the “American” category.