Thursday, May 24, 2012

Asparagus and Hop Asparagus

I found both asparagus and hop asparagus last month. The asparagus were wild, growing in Palmer Park, an urban treasure of trails and open space in the middle of Colorado Springs.
There's food here, but you really need to know where to look.
My friend Suzanne has been foraging wild asparagus here since she was a little girl. We left everything we found this day to others, but it was a great lesson in knowing where to look.
You really don't need recipes for asparagus, wild or domestic. A hot grill and a little olive oil, or a pan with a little butter will do nicely. When harvesting, dig down a little way down into the ground and cut with a knife.
Look closely ...
Hop asparagus are just the new shoots of hops. There are loads of wild hops around here, but most that I've found have been along roads or the railroad tracks on the south end of the Air Force Academy. My husband has harvested some of the hops near the academy, farther away from the tracks, but I wouldn't want to harvest new shoots that may have been sprayed.
New growth hops.
We got these at the hop yard for our favorite brewery, Bristol, at Venetucci Farms. My family is part of a team of volunteer caretakers who are making sure Bristol has plenty of organically-grown, local hops for experimentation and brewing. You have to cut back the first growth of hops so that the plants don't freeze. Second growth hop vines are sturdier and more resistant. Since we cut all of the hops back, I took the shoots (and some leaves) home.
Didn't get to these fast enough!
Unfortunately, this is what my own hop yard looked like the next day, so we didn't harvest our own first growth. But we have so many shoots on our plants that we'll need to cut the smaller ones back a number of times before summer. Like asparagus, you really don't need a recipe for hop shoots. Saute them in a little butter, quickly. They are very tender, and taste like a slightly grassy asparagus. The leaves can be treated as any greens, and cooked fast in a hot pan with a little olive oil and garlic.
Fall harvest.

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