It’s asparagus season! One of my favorite perennial crops (after the herbaceous perennial chives), asparagus have been cultivated for thousands of years. In France, the elegant and slender spears were grown in greenhouses, and enjoyed by royalty. The asparagus plant, which is actually one of the lily family’s cultivated forms, traveled to North America in 1655.
Here in Maine, asparagus is an important homestead and perennial crop. A properly selected and planted site will produce for 15 – 20 years or longer. Asparagus prefer a sunny, well-drained place free of perennial weeds. The plants are heavy feeders, and perform best in a soil with a ph. of 7.
Here at Rabbit Hill, my husband planted our asparagus patch in 2011 with the variety Purple Passion. Although it produced well in the early years, harvest dwindled, until we enriched the soil with rabbit manure, and limed our very acidic soil. With adequate rainfall or irrigation, our asparagus bed rewards us with a bounty of eating for 6 weeks or more. With plentiful rain, we are sometimes blessed with a second crop in the fall.
Check your local farmers markets, food coops, and health food stores and you will find them abundant with bright green or purple tipped, delicious and nutritious food. The fresh, local asparagus season is cause for celebration, as it only comes around once a year. We enjoy the food of royalty almost daily; steamed with hollandaise sauce, grilled with herbs, in salads and stir-fries, even on pizza.
Vegan soups, my latest culinary study and cooking adventure, was the inspiration for Vegan Cream of Asparagus Soup. Unlike soups thickened with heavy cream (which we dairy lovers all enjoy!), this preparation uses white beans and almond milk instead. The base, a mirepoix of carrots, onions, celery and garlic, is sautéed in oil, and finished with a splash of white wine.
Chopped asparagus, vegetable or asparagus stock, white beans and almond milk are then added to the base and simmered until the spears are tender. Once pureed and seasoned with fresh chives, Cream of Asparagus Soup is an elegant repast, perfect for a spring supper or special luncheon. Plus, unlike dairy based recipes, this soup freezes well.
For a real treat, pour the creamy potage in thermos and enjoy it on a picnic. Enjoy the season, because nothing beats real, Maine grown food. Finest kind!
Vegan Cream of Asparagus Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 small garlic clove chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped celery
- 1/3 cup chopped carrot
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 pound bunch of asparagus
- 200 ml about ¾ cup, unsweetened almond milk
- 14 ounce can white beans drained & rinsed
- 2 cups asparagus or vegetable stock
- Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- Chopped chives for garnish
- Assemble ingredients and tools. Trim the ends off the asparagus (may save for stock).
- Roughly chop the asparagus and set aside.
- In a heavy soup pot, heat the oil until hot. Stir in the onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Stir and cook until vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the white wine and cook until the wine has evaporated.
- Add the chopped asparagus, 2 cups stock, the white beans and almond milk to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer on low heat until the asparagus are cooked to tender, about 10 – 15 minutes.
- Puree the mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender.
- Season to taste with Maine sea salt and fresh pepper. Serve with chopped fresh chives sprinkled on top. Makes seven 1-cup servings.