Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday - How Does Your Garden Grow

Glean -
verb (used with object)
1. to gather slowly and laboriously, bit by bit.
2. to gather (grain or the like) after the reapers or regular gatherers.
3. to learn, discover, or find out, usually little by little or slowly.
verb (used without object)
4. to collect or gather anything little by little or slowly.
5. to gather what is left by reapers.

Free for the taking. The email popped up in my mailbox the morning after a night of heavy persistent rain. A farm market 30 miles west not only got the rain but had also been hit by hail. Their asparagus fields had survived but the hail had made the remaining stalks unsuitable for sale. However. If you didn't mind a little pocked marked asparagus, you could have as much as you could pick up. I quickly did the math. $2.99 a pound for grocery store asparagus or as much as I could pick for the price of a short road trip? I slapped on my mudders and pointed my little car west.The fields were at their end of their season. John, the cheerful man shuttling folks back and forth to the fields explained that we could take whatever we found, stalks lying on the ground, small tips just starting to emerge, take it all because it was just going to be plowed under the next day. Armed with my little green grocery basket I went to work. I thought more people would be out gathering the bounty but I toiled alone in my field while this man worked the field next to me. No matter, it was a beautiful day and the birds were chattering to one another in their secret bird language songs. It was better than any Ipod music I could jammed into my ears.Picking the stalks was not as easy as one would imagine. You're searching for green stalks in a green field. Nor is it a physically easy. The stalks are low to the ground and you've got to bend to get to them. I got into a rhythm once I did spot the stalks, stoop, snap, rise, crouch, snap and rise again. Slowly my basket started to fill.Happily not everything was crushed by hail. This was one of the many lady bugs I saw as I picked. A good sign of a nice healthy field. Stoop, snap, rise, stoop, snap, rise.My knees and back starting speaking to me as I continued my gleaning. "Don't you think it's time to stop?" they urged, "You have plenty of asparagus." The cheapskate side of my brain shouted them down. "FREE, it's FREE, just keep picking." I tried to distract myself with all the things I would do with my bounty. A majority of it would be blanched and vacuumed sealed to go into the freezer. The tender little tips I had made sure to also pick were destined to become pickles. The best and most tender stalks would go into my Dim Sum Sunday dish.With my basket finally full, I walked back up to the market store to say thanks for the gift and perhaps see what else might make the trip back home.While there was no sign saying how much they were, I'm betting they were as free as the asparagus.Did I mention we got a lot of rain? I drove home happy. My body ached, my nails had a fine line of soil beneath them and my jeans were tatooed with that wonderful black soil.
I hadn't planned to use asparagus for my Dim Sum dinner. I had a totally different dished planned. Even now there's a beautiful pork loin in the fridge still waiting for me. But this was just too good to pass up. I decided to blanch and stir fry my green treasure in Sambal Sauce. I only made half the amount and instead of shrimp paste I used anchovies crushed into a paste. I added a couple of Panko fried Soft Shell crabs to complete my Spring to the Extreme dish.The asparagus couldn't have been more tender and fresh. The spicy sweet peanut sauce danced through both the salty brine of the crab and the distinctive flavor of the asparagus. It was a beautiful marriage of flavors that made all the hard work and pain very much worth the effort. And while I was very sorry for the farmer's loss I was very thankful for his generosity that allowed me such a wealth of goodness.


Big Shamu said...

First timer at Dim Sum Sunday, Dani at Gardening under the Florida Sun has a wonderful post up featuring her bountiful garden, so stop by and enjoy both her gardening and cooking skills.

Dani said...

You are so lucky! I really am surprised that you didn't see others out gathering. I would have been in the car ready to go in a heartbeat!

I'm up over at my place for Dim Sum Sunday. :)

Big Shamu said...

Me too Dani, I had second thoughts about going back for more. Their loss though. I'm making asparagus quiche next.

billjac said...

We're on this already? With only three days notice? I just did a Mama Mia post. I thought you gave us a full week on that.

Big Shamu said...

Nope, sorry. We announce on Wednesdays for the next Sunday.

Buzz Kill said...


I love, LOVE asparagus. That was a great story. And a nice gesture on the part of the farm. Although I guess the farmer had nothing to lose by giving the asparagus away and getting some publicity out of it. Still a loss is a loss. What I saw in your pictures looked fine to me.

All I can say is "Wow" to the asparagus with sambal sauce and panko fried soft shells. You're way over my head in culinary skills and taste. I may try a variation on the sauce the next time I do a stir fry though.

I posted an entry and a story over at the Buzzkill for your ammusement. I've got a feeling there will be many more garden horror stories to come - all summer long.

Big Shamu said...

Thanks Buzz, right now I'm experiencing pickers regret. Not so much for the amount I picked but for the results on this old, out of shape body.
One of the pictures I didn't post was one of a big plastic tub of fat, perfect stalks of purple asparagus that was for sale at the farm stand. You can tell the difference. Still I'm pretty happy and thank you for your kind comments.

Susan said...

wow that looks delicious ! and a fun outing in nature and rain with kittens and bending - great fun. I did make a sugar snap pea, zuchinni, asparagus, broccoli thing with garlic lemon juice and olive oil that I tossed with baby arugula and baby spinach leaves drizzles with a dijon vinagrette and then ate a big bowl of loads o'chunks of peanut butter premium chocolate ice cream just to cancel any & all health benefits of heaps of veggies. Sadly no photos were taken.

forgive spelling issues please. susan

Boxer said...

I loved seeing the entire process, including the kittens.

LaDivaCucina said...

mmmmmmm.....YUMMY! Damn, I love those kind of road trips!

I wish I could eat those soft shell crabs, think I'm allergic, get sick every time but they sho' look good.

Tonight, I'm doing an asparagus, ham and gruyere quiche, we were outta town on the weekend.

Just FYI, I also do a lovely asparagus risotto with a porcini and mushroom broth and add gourmet mushrooms. To die for.

Big Shamu said...

Susan, sounds so yummy this "thing" you made. Want some asparagus? Or a kitten?

Boxer, I'm sure the comedic video of the year which shall never be seen is the video of me getting out of bed this morning. Oy vey!.

La Diva, count me as your designated soft shell eater. No problems here no sirree. Make sure you check out Dani's quiche at the link in the comments above. Eggs and veggies from her own mini-garden heaven.

Morels in season right now, perfect for risotto. Hmmmmmmmmm.

NYD said...

When you run out of asparagus you can always come by my place and pick some more. While you are at it maybe you could help me dig up the 'taters and carrots, daikon....

I hope you aren't aching too much. I often am after a day in the fields.

Big Shamu said...

Obviously it didn't take much encouragement for me to get free asparagus. I can dig taters and carrots the best of them. (As long as they are 50 and over.)

Pherenike said...

First Violets, now Asparagus, what will you gather next? I would have been just like you, picking, picking picking until the basket overflowed.