Light, Bright Spring Meals
If you’ve followed this meandering blog for any length of time, it’s probably pretty obvious that I love cabbage, kale, cauliflower; really, the whole cole family. At least one of these wholesome ingredients makes its way into my daily diet and I never really get tired of them. In fact, my kitchen deck container garden is already burgeoning with fresh cole cousin starts even as their overwintering kin are petering out. How can I NOT plant new-to-me kales such as extravagantly ruffled Prizm, lacy Bear Necessities and silvery North Star Polaris? Irresistible, right?
And who can blame me if I sneak in some stunning rattail radishes? These intriguing creatures are grown not for their smallish roots but for their elongated, curvaceous seedpods in glossy purple or deep green. (The actual name is Raphanus caudatus, also called Rat’s Tail Radish or Dragon’s Tail). As an often lazy gardener who likes to let root crops bloom for the bees, I discovered the spicy flavor and crunchy spunk of radish seed pods years ago. Ordinary radish seed pods are good, but these curly girls are fabulous on the plate and the palate alike.
An Addictive Asparagus Dish
I’m also very fond of asparagus; so much so that I refuse to eat it out of season. I feel the same way about strawberries and plenty of other things, since I can’t imagine that anything harvested in Peru or Chile or New Zealand and shipped all the way to Washington State can truly qualify as “fresh” food. The first anything of the season is appreciated so much more when it’s a genuinely seasonal treat that it’s worth waiting the better part of a year to enjoy. The largest harvest is yet to come, but if you’re impatient like me, you may find enough pencil-thick stems to make a memorably delicious raw salad that truly is addictive.
When the spears are young, slice them thinly on the diagonal so there’s plenty of surface area to take up the dressing. By midseason when the stalks are plumper, use a sharp vegetable peeler to create crisp, sweet ribbons of raw asparagus. Toss them in a velvety vinaigrette that’s lively with fresh lemon and garlic, add creamy goat cheese and a crunchy handful of toasted pumpkin seeds and prepare to be amazed!
Addictive Asparagus Salad
1/4 cup fruity olive oil or avocado oil
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
16 spears asparagus, bottoms snapped off
4 brown field mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup crumbled soft goat cheese.
few grinds of black pepper
In a wide, shallow pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil with lemon zest, garlic, half the salt and the pumpkin seeds and toast over medium high heat until crisp, shaking pan often (3-4 minutes). Remove pan from heat, set aside. In a jar, combine remaining oil with lemon juice and salt to taste. Put toasted seeds on a plate and add garlic and oil from pan to the vinaigrette, shake well and set aside. Remove asparagus tips, set aside. Slice slender asparagus stalks thinly on the diagonal or use a vegetable peeler to make thin strips of thicker asparagus. Combine them in a serving bowl with the mushrooms, asparagus tips, and vinaigrette and toss gently to coat. For pencil thin stalks, garnish and serve at once; if using ribbons, let stand for 5 minutes, then serve, garnished with goat cheese, pepper, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Serves 4 (or at least one).
The Darker Side Of Local Harvests
If you’re an Evergreenie like me, you’ll be happy to learn that Washington State is second only to California in asparagus production, and that most of it comes from family farms around Pasco. If you’re from anywhere yet much like me, you’ll be horrified to learn that last year, a significant portion of the local asparagus crop wasn’t harvested because there weren’t enough field workers here in April and May. You may also be dismayed to find out about farm produce rotting in fields all over the country because many Hispanic field workers are not willing to trade their safety and that of their families for demanding seasonal work. This is especially true since the current regime has commanded ICE to round up anyone who even looks Hispanic and all too often deport them willy-nilly, even if their papers are in order.
If you’re interested in learning more about Washington crops, here’s a good link: http://www.washivore.org/asparagus
If you want to speak out about the current regime’s attack on immigrants and immigration (or many other hot topics of concern), here’s a terrific link: 5calls.org (there’s a phone app too).
I especially like the 5calls site because they offer a changing menu of topics you care about and a basic overview for whichever you select, various numbers to call depending on your zip code (including local offices if your politician’s D.C. line is busy or a voice mailbox is full). There’s also a guided script which you can change up or amplify as you like. I find this part really useful as I tend to start crying when I explain why I care so much about liberty and justice for all or basic human rights or immigrants and human decency or Constitutional rights or the health of the planet…pass the tissues, please and hand me the damn phone.