Asparagus Beetles

I love asparagus.  It is truly one of my favorite foods.  When we planted 75 roots a few years ago, I thought all of my future asparagus desires would be fully realized.  I was wrong.  We planted 50 more roots this spring.

Last year, I noticed these teeny tiny little black specks on our asparagus, and it occurred to me that they were the eggs of some kind of insect.  Yep.  No problem.  We just washed them off before we ate the stalks.  No big deal.

It didn’t occur to me to scrape the eggs off of the skinny stalks that we allowed to go to seed.

Our asparagus season began with serious damage done by those blasted asparagus beetles!  It is amazing to me that three relatively small insects can completely destroy a healthy stalk in less than 24 hours…and still have time to lay a few dozen eggs.  Ugh!  The good news is, that unlike cabbage worms and tomato worms, asparagus beetles are not at all camouflage.  They are easy to see and easy to kill.

Twice a day, I walk up and down my rows of asparagus, knocking dozens of beetles off of the stalk and into a cup of soapy water or smashing them between my fingers before scraping the eggs off each stalk.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  This is the reality of pesticide-free gardening, folks, and this is why you pay more for it.  Growers need compensated for the carnage.  Gardening can be a nasty business.

Between the beetles and a late freeze before which I neglected to harvest the stalks that were up, we’re a little light on asparagus around here.  It’s a sorrowful state, truly.

The way I see it, I have a choice here.  I can be mad about it or I can learn my lesson and move on.  I mean, I am the one who allowed the eggs to reach maturity instead of getting rid of them when I first noticed their presence.  And, I am the one who was too busy to take the time to cut the asparagus in case of freezing temperatures.  I can’t always control the bad things that happen around here, but I certainly can control the way I respond.

This makes me think of sin.  The devil plants negative thoughts in my mind.  Do I let them stay and grow into something destructive?  Life throws a variety of obstacles in my path.  Do I deal with the momentary inconvenience of handling them immediately or do I give them the opportunity to bring permanent, lasting damage?

I have a choice.  It is almost always easier to do the work up front than to shove it to the back burner to deal with later.  Just like asparagus beetle eggs appear relatively harmless in the beginning, so does the first sign of sin.  And, the Bible tells us that when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.

Years ago, I heard a preacher say, “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost far more than you’re willing to pay”.  Based on my life experiences, I can emphatically agree with that.  It will never get any easier to deal with the ugly in our lives than it is right now.


Freezing Spring Produce on Indy Style

This is a segment from an Indianapolis-based talk show in which I demonstrated how to take advantage of local spring produce.

When produce is at its peak in freshness and nutrition, it is a cost-effective time to acquire bulk amounts to preserve for enjoying year-round.  While many people are hesitant to jump into canning, most spring produce can be preserved easily by freezing.  For leafy greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard, remove any woody stems, wash well, blanch in boiling water for a minute or two, then remove greens to an ice water bath.  When cool, place in a colander to drain.  After draining, put greens into a freezer container, being sure to label with contents and date.  These greens can easily be used in soups, lasagnas, smoothies or creamed in au gratin-type dishes  Asparagus uses the same freezing method, though it is helpful to spin or towel-dry the spears a bit before freezing.  This last step will keep quiches from getting soggy when using the asparagus after being frozen.  Strawberries can be washed, topped, sliced and frozen in portions that are conducive to making pies, smoothies or jams.  Rhubarb is also easy to freeze.  Just wash, dice and put in a freezer container in desired amounts for use in Victoria sauce, breads, jams or crisps.  Eating regional, in-season produce is a great way to save money, take in higher nutrition and support your local community.

Jamie’s Spring Vegetable and White Cheddar Frittata

This recipe came highly recommended to me from Jamie’s husband. We tried it, and we agree:  It’s a definite keeper!

I’m looking forward to having enough farm-fresh eggs, spinach and asparagus on-hand soon to give it a try.

1 3/4 c. fresh cut asparagus
1 tsp water
8 large eggs
2 egg whites
1/4 c milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
5 c. fresh spinach leaves
1 c. cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp fresh basil (optional garnish)

Preheat oven broiler.  Place asparagus and water in glass  pie plate or bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high 3 minutes, or until asparagus is tender-crisp and still bright green.  Whisk eggs, egg whites, milk, salt and pepper in large bowl until blended; set aside.  Heat 1 T olive oil in oven proof 12 in skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and saute 1 minute.  Stir in spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until spinach is slightly wilted, about 1 minute.  Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in cooked asparagus along with remaining 1 T olive oil.  Pour egg mixture in skillet and stir gently to evenly distribute ingredients.  Cook until eggs are almost set, about 8 to 11 minutes.  (Eggs will be runny on top, but set on sides and bottom.)

Remove frittata from heat, sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese and place skillet in oven, about 6-7 in. from heat source. Broil until the center is firm and cheese completely melted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove and sprinkle with fresh basil if desired.  Cut into 6 wedges.

Roasted Asparagus with Feta

Some friends were recently sharing the many different ways they enjoy asparagus.  Suggestions included roasting and/or grilling and accompaniments such as bacon, olive oil, sea salt and/or bleu cheese.  YUM!

Here’s another twist:  tomatoes and feta cheese.  This could be a meal if tossed with some bowtie pasta.  Mmmmm!

1 lb. asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tomatoes, chopped
6-8 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Toss asparagus with olive oil and spread on cookie sheet (with edges).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Toss with tomatoes and feta cheese.

Eat heartily.

Parmesan Asparagus

Spring is the best time of year to find high-quality asparagus at good prices.  I could eat this as a meal.

1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 T. oil
salt & pepper to taste
red pepper flakes, if desired

Toss asparagus in oil, then spread evenly on baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until desired doneness.  Immediately grate fresh parmesan cheese over hot asparagus.

Remember that you can also prepare these in a skillet on the stovetop.