Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2002
Regional Report

Recipes

Light Cream of Asparagus Soup
If you can manage to get beyond simply preparing your asparagus steamed with butter, try this delightful soup -- hot or cold! The pureed stalks are the trick to a pleasingly thick soup. If you'd like it even richer, add half-and-half or heavy or whipping cream in place of the whole milk. Serve hot with parsley, or chilled with thin slices of lemon.



Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds asparagus

1/2 cup leek or onion, minced

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1 chicken bouillon cube

1/2 cup whole milk

1/8 cup minced fresh parsley or cilantro

2 tablespoons lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste



Procedure

Boil or steam asparagus until tender. Reserve 3 cups cooking liquid (I prefer to cook the asparagus with all this water in order to have it infused with the asparagus flavor, rather than steam it with a minimum of water and add chicken broth). Cut off tips and reserve. Cut remainder into 1-inch pieces. Saute onion in butter until translucent and soft. Sprinkle flour onto onion mix, and stir till thickens, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle on coriander. Dissolve bouillon cube in reserved cooking liquid, stir into roux gradually, and simmer 5 minutes. Puree stalk pieces in blender with 1 cup liquid, slowly adding more. (Be careful -- it's hot! You can also prepare the soup to this point, let it cool, and continue later.) Pour into heavy saucepan, add milk, and stir to combine while heating to serving temperature. Stir in asparagus tips and lemon juice. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro.

Favorite or New Plant

Asparagus Plants -- Easy to Grow and Beautiful
Asparagus prefers as much sun as you can give it, but it will grow and produce satisfactorily in partially-shaded areas such as next to a fence or a building, especially if the plants receive morning sun.



Choose a new area rather than replanting an old asparagus bed with new roots. In an old bed, residues from the old plants will retard the growth of the new young ones, and the old bed may have accumulated fungal pathogens. (This is why it's wise to rotate all crops.)



Dig lots of compost and composted manure into the soil, and set roots at least six inches deep and a foot apart. Cover them with a fluffy mix of soil, manure, or other organic mulch, and water in well. When new growth emerges, deeply soak the area once a week.



To beds of established asparagus plants, apply composted manure to the depth of an inch or two to slowly feed the plants as rain and overhead irrigation wash the nutrients down into the root zone.

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