Springtime for some is a horrible season of allergies. Stuffy, runny noses, red eyes and sneezing abound as the deciduous and fruit trees blossom and spread their pollen throughout the warming springtime air. For some, it is a time for Claritin, Allerest, Zyrtec. What does this have to do with asparagus, you ask? Not much, except that they coincide, and they were both on my mind after our short trip out to Martha’s Vineyard last weekend.
I have never had seasonal allergies, but my son does. He gets great purple bags under his eyes and has a terrible grouchy attitude. So terrible, in fact, that when he was 11 I brought him to the doctor, explaining that he was just a miserable person and what could I do about it? She took one look at his purple shaded eyes and diagnosed him with seasonal allergies, prescribing a daily dose of Claritin. It worked marvelously. His attitude improved, the purple diminished and we went our merry way, but it caused me to wonder about allergies; why some people get them, and what I could do about it for my son. Over the years I have found some homeopathic remedies that work with varying success.
Quercetin is a natural substance found in the skin of onions and apples. Sadly, apples and onions are not seasonal to springtime, but fortunately quercetin is available over the counter as a supplement.
Stinging nettle, found in many allergy medications, is a useful herb in curbing the annoying symptoms, and can be taken in a tea form. Stinging nettle is available now, and grows best in weedy lots and near manure piles. Do not forget your gloves and long sleeves, as well as shoes and socks. The effects of touching the plant itself are uncomfortable in the extreme. Chop it, steep it, season it with honey, and enjoy! If gathering it is too much for you, most health food stores will carry it, but it is best fresh.
Honey is another supposed remedy for allergies. It is recommended to take a teaspoon once a day, but the honey must be unblended and from your area in order for it to have a benefit. Some swear by this, but so far the evidence is inconclusive. It can’t hurt, anyway.
Acupuncture may help alleviate allergy symptoms, especially if you start treatment about a month before peak season. Apparently opening certain meridians can help to suppress an overactive immune system.
Last weekend, as I was indulging in the abundant asparagus that grows in the garden there, that we have patiently waited for years to mature and produce, my son was miserable. He wanted only to lay inside and play on his Kindle. He was tired, and grumpy, by turns sarcastic, caustic and irritable. We couldn’t even get him to enjoy going fishing. And only later, as I consider writing a post about the lovely asparagus, does the reason occur to me. Duh! What is it about mothers who are always the last to figure it out? I really should have known.
So. To the asparagus!
Any aficionado of that strange plant will tell you with fervent belief that fresh cannot compare to store bought asparagus, and we are right. The ONLY time to eat it is when those tender shoots get to be just the right height to cut, and there are just enough to take without killing off the plant. Harvesting asparagus is an exercise in patience. A strong asparagus plant will send out shoots when the weather warms, but you must not cut those first delectable morsels! They taunt you as they harden into stalks, but in order for the plant to thrive it must have foliage to photosynthesize. Those first stalks are necessary to the plant’s health, and only after they begin to mature and more shoots emerge may one gently cut and enjoy some of the delicate stalks. The flavor is sublime. Below are some of the ways we indulged our culinary fantasies and savored this most precious springtime treat.
Roasted Balsamic Asparagus with pancetta and caramelized onion
Oven temp 400.
2 lbs of fresh cut asparagus, peeled if the outer skin is tough.
4 tbs olive oil, divided
3 tbs good balsamic vinegar
2 large onions
1/4 lb. pancetta. Ham, prosciutto, or bacon would work as well.
Chop onions in half and slice thinly Chop pancetta into small squares. In a skillet heat 2 tbs. oil on med heat. Stir in onions and cook, allowing to brown. When onions are almost done, about 15 minutes, add pancetta and cook, stirring, for 5 more minutes. Meanwhile, place asparagus in a single layer in a roasting pan lined with tinfoil and coat with the remaining 2 tbs oil. Sprinkle with the balsamic and roast in 400 F oven for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Remove, top with hot onion and pancetta mixture and serve.
Asparagus Yorkshire Pudding
Oven temp 400 F
1 1/2 cup organic flour
1 1/2 cup organic or raw milk
Salt to taste.
1/3 cup roast drippings, bacon fat or lard.
1 lb asparagus
Peel Asparagus if necessary. Place a roasting pan in hot oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together first 4 ingredients into a batter. When the pan is hot, add the drippings or bacon fat and coat the pan. Place the asparagus in a single layer and cover with the batter. Return to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 10 – 15 minutes or until pudding is puffy, lightly brown and beginning to crisp. Refrain from opening the oven until you remove the pudding. If you must check the progress, use the light and window. Allow to cool for a few minutes and cut into squares. Serve immediately.