Delta asparagus...maybe the best asparagus in the world. Yes, the world. As I was planning my asparagus dish for week thirteen in The Food Matters Project I received this invitation.
Come for a Delta Asparagus Tasting
California Delta Asparagus Tasting
Slow Food Santa Barbara & Market Forays
WHEN: Sunday April 29, 2012
TIME: 3 to 5 pm
LOCATION: 814 San Roque Road, Santa Barbara
WHAT: An afternoon tasting of the best asparagus in the country,
served with suitable accoutrements from prosciutto to Hollandaise,
in the enjoyable company of fun-loving folks. There will be wine and beer -
I will serve Sauvignon Blanc and wheat beer,
feel free to bring whatever label you think will go best.
WHY: Because asparagus from the California Delta is the very best and sweetest. (Honestly, it puts our local SB asparagus to shame.) Also, because Delta asparagus is under severe pressure from cheaper imports, and I feel that it deserves to be better known.
DETAILS: Asparagus is a perennial plant. In spring, the mother plant sends up shoots, the asparagus spears. Depending on the strength of the plant, the spears are either thick or thin. The thickest spears, "jumbo", are the juiciest, sweetest, and most highly prized.
A few weeks ago I had my first taste of this spring delicacy, and resolved to share it with my friends at the first opportunity. I have been in Northern California at the orchard this past week, and made contact with Roscoe Zuckerman, Stockton asparagus farmer.
I will be picking up jumbo asparagus from Roscoe's farm on my way back to Santa Barbara, and look forward to sharing it with you on Sunday.
I thought I would use this event as inspiration for my FMP dish. Little did I know what I was in for.
Laurence, the leader of our local Slow Food Santa Barbara chapter planned this event.
What is Slow Food?
I did some research on Roscoe Zuckerman and found this. Please read it, it is amazing.
Delta asparagus is known all over the world as the best asparagus you can find. Chefs clamor for this asparagus grown in rich peat soil near Stockton, Ca.
Think thick! They produce jumbo spears, full of sweetness and flavor.
We stared out with a box of fresh spears (she brought 90 pounds with her) and then we peeled them. We had two varieties, the green and the purple. The purple are called Viola and they have an even sweeter flavor than the green, reminiscent of snap peas. By far our favorite.
With Delta asparagus the entire spear is tender. You just give them a quick peel and then slice about 1/4 inch off the end.
We tied them in bundles and stood them up in a pot of boiling water.
Covered with a towel and cooked for about 5-7 minutes.
Served with hollandaise, butter, olive oil, and prosciutto.
There were some well known chefs at the event who were just as exited as we were to celebrate Delta Asparagus. One chef I talked to has cooked all over the world and not only did he say this is the best asparagus in the world, but that he buys it fresh at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and has actually watched it grow an inch or two after he purchases it. I read about it and during daylight hours in the Delta it can grow as fast as one inch an hour!
Delta asparagus is really threatened. The asparagus harvested in Mexico and Peru is a huge challenge. The workers are paid less than 10.00 a day and they produce a product that doesn't even come close to the flavor of Delta asparagus. The local farmers will go away if we don't support them.
I brought home a couple of pounds of it. I intended to make soup but I can't do anything to this luscious gift from nature. It needs to be pure and almost raw. It's that good.
It was a fabulous afternoon with a group of chefs, restaurant owners, and some fun foodies celebrating something that just might be the best in the world.
You can find this asparagus at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and at the San Francisco Farmer's Market. It will only be there for two more weeks. Smaller stores in the Stockton area carry it as well.
The soup recipe (that I had planned on making) from Mark Bittman's cookbook is here on Adrienne's blog and go check out what the other Food Matters Project members made this week.