If you’re looking for a meaningful-but-fun way to celebrate spring, and good, clean, sustainable local food in advance of the weekend Earth Day observances, this Friday, April 20, the newly-rechristened Central Iowa chapter of Slow Food USA is having a ‘Dig In!’ kickoff event from 2 – 5 pm at The Cheese Bar on Ingersoll Avenue.
Local Slow Food members (including Farmer Jordan from Grade A Gardens) will be planting some heirloom seeds in the new raised beds, while we all enjoy some slow “bubbles and bites” in the sunshine on the new patio.
Give-what-you-can day. The event will also be celebrating Slow Food USA’s “Give What You Can Day,” where any donation amount* during the “Dig In” Friday event makes you a member of the new Slow Food Central Iowa group.
It is a great opportunity for new (and “old”) folks to get involved!
Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization whose supporters around the world are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and environment.
*(Slow Food USA membership is normally $60/year)
But it isn’t a balsamic vinegar. And it definitely isn’t an olive oil.
What is Saba? Also known as sapa, mosto cotto o vino cotto, saba is a special “cousin” of sorts to balsamic vinegar.
An ancient Italian condiment, saba is a sweet, dense syrup that is created using the same methods that make your favorite balsamic.
Cookin’ it, old-school. Asparagus has been a part of our culinary palette for a long time — it appears on an Egyptian frieze from 3000 BCE, and Cato the Elder included instructions for planting the vegetable in his farming manual, De Agri Cultura, around 160 BCE.
Let them eat veg. France’s King Louis XIV dubbed asparagus the “king of vegetables” and was the first enthusiast to cultivate the veg in greenhouses for year-round availability.
The nose knows. Quite a few people make jokes that allude to the distinct odor (because, face it, potty humor is the best humor), but the majority of people can’t smell “asparagus pee“– the odor asparagus consumption causes urine to have. It actually takes a specific gene to allow someone to detect the smell, and only 25% of people have that gene.
Perfect Bloody Mary swizzle-stick? Research has shown that the minerals and amino acids in asparagus may relieve some of the effects alcohol has on the body. Some of the enzymes found in asparagus are good at breaking down alcohol, thus alleviating some of the hangover effects of alcohol consumption.
Speaking of headaches… Asparagus is a fantastic vegetable-based source for riboflavin (aka Vitamin B2), which can help reduce the frequency and duration of migraine headaches.
I’m bringing sexy snack. Asparagus is a legendary food aphrodisiac. Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th-century English genius-of-all-trades (he is remembered as a botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer, for heck’s sake) wrote in The English Phystian that asparagus “stirreth up bodily lust in Man or Woman.” This may actually be due to the amount of vitamin E in the vegetable, which boosts the production of sex hormones. And let’s not get started on the “suggestive” shape of the vegetable itself …
Extra credit trivia: And, for the erudite and potty-mouthed among us, here’s your vocab word of the week: the French word for asparagus is asperge; asperge is also a French slang word for penis.
Hungry to know more? There is an entire museum dedicated solely to asparagus. The European Asparagus Museum (Europäisches Spargelmuseum), in Schrobenhausen, Bavaria, Germany celebrates everything about asparagus from its history to its botany, cultivation, art and curiosities.
Photo credit: A Bunch of Asparagus (1880), Edouard Manet, Musee d’Orsay
Choose the right stuff: When shopping for fresh asparagus, a vibrant green (or purple or white) and buds/tips that still look tight mean that your veg is fresh and flavorful. Discoloration, or dryness/splits at the root end mean it’s been too long since the asparagus was picked.
Rainbow bright. There are three colors of asparagus: green, purple and white. Green is the most common variety, and tastes best when it is cooked al dente. Purple asparagus is like purple string beans: it turns green when cooked. White asparagus is heavily mulched / grown in darkness, and has a tougher texture. White asparagus needs to be peeled from tip to tail, and, in stark opposition to green asparagus, should be well-cooked. Don’t cook white and green asparagus together: the green will discolor the white spears.
Through thick and thin. The thickness of the asparagus’ stalk does not indicate its maturity; a thin asparagus spear does not grow into a fat one. You can make a tasty dish with either. Thin is great for stir-fries and saute; thick is, not surprisingly, hardier and a good pick for roasting or grilling.
Put it away, put it away, put it away now, and then in a plastic bag, no longer than three days. You do not need to clean asparagus before stashing it in the fridge. You could also store asparagus standing up in a wide-mouth jar or other container, with an inch of water in the bottom. Keep it in the fridge, uncovered, and use it within a few days.
Next, choose a favorite asparagus recipe (lots to choose among here), or try one of the following ultra-simple cooking methods:
Steamed asparagus 101: 1″ of salted boiling water in the bottom of the pot. Asparagus, in a single layer, in the steamer basket. Cover and cook, 3 min max. Remove asparagus from steamer basket and blot excess moisture with a paper or kitchen towel. Eat it naked (the asparagus, not you, silly), or with a light drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil.
Blanch it! (not Cate) 101 In a wide pot, boil a few inches of generously salted water and add your asparagus, either whole stalks or cut into pieces. Cook at a rapid simmer for 1 minutes. Then immediately plunge the spears into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking and to keep them green. Remove from ice water and blot, otherwise risk waterlogged asparagus.
Calling all creative minds! Spring is here and the time has come to freshen up our AllSpice apron offerings.
That’s where you come in: help us come up with some clever sayings for our new aprons. Show us your best food quotes, jokes, and quips!
Got fresh ideas? To enter, simply comment on this post or send your suggestions in an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to some great bragging rights, our winner will be receiving this gift box with their winning apron!
You have until April 19 to submit your entries. Thank you, and good Luck!
(To see some of our older apron slogans and sayings, take a look here).