Patience in droves

I spent a good deal of time yesterday at the dump. Apparently, the dump is a very popular place to be on Memorial Day, because I saw a lot of other people there, too. Most of them were after the same thing I was: free compost. (Two were playing golf, with white balls and clubs and all, over a twenty foot mountain of dirt, but I decided it was best not to ask about that.) I simply kept shoveling, and looked the other way. The compost had too important a purpose to be persuaded by distractions like that.

The compost was for the asparagus patch.

The asparagus patch is very much an imaginary place right now, but with any luck, this compost will help bring it into the world of dinner plates and dirt.

Asparagus is one of those plants I've always hoped to grow. I admire anyone who has the patience for a good patch, because waiting around happily is not my forte. To wait three years in this world—in this world of zooming emails and mobile phones and learning to instant message when you're five—to wait three years in this world to pick a vegetable is an act of amazing restraint. Growing asparagus requires patience in droves.

But the thing is, showing up at 7:30am to line up at the farmers' market every Saturday in May and June to make sure you get one of the only three or four bundles of spears before they sell out—this also requires patience of a kind. I was lucky last week—Ron Backer knew I was coming late and saved me a half pound—but I can't count on this sort of kindness all the time.

The other day, I realized that planting a row of crowns looked pretty rosy in the patience department in comparison to lining up and waiting all the time.

(Plus, I transplanted a rhubarb shoot this spring that I can't touch until next year, and despite the visions of pie I go to sleep to each night, I've managed to wait. I think maybe —just maybe—the patience department of my brain might be growing. Either that or there's something to the phrase hurry up and wait.)

So I went to the dump, shoveled compost into the truck and then from the truck to a comfortable little spot in the yard, and tomorrow, the crowns will go in.

In the meantime, last night with dirty hands and an aching back, I cooked up that half pound of spears. I heated a skillet with a pat of butter and snapped the ends from the spears, and then laid them down against the silver bottom one by one. I fit a lid over top, let their bodies go just limp, and brought them out onto a plate. They'd soaked up all the butter, every last drop, and steamed in their own moisture a bit. They were perfect—every bit spring and tenderness.

If you're patient enough to have your own patch, hopefully you've got a stick of butter hidden away, too. I can't think of a better snack than butter poached asparagus.


Andrea said...

I'm hoping you meant to put an 's' after that word crown. We have a patch with about 18 or so plants and that is barely enough to satisfy our family of three (one is a 2 yo). Half of the patch is also 2 years old and I wasn't patient enough to not clip a few spears this year (I left most of it alone!), but ideally, I'd like to find some space to double the number of plants we currently have. We were able to harvest our first meal during the last week of April and I'm about to go out to cut some for tonight (to go along with black sea bass that I just noticed was in - yea!!!)

Elspeth said...

dear andrea—thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! i confess i spent more time preparing the ground than looking into the specifics of what to buy (that happens today, with any luck) but thanks to your nudging i have realized it will take many more than one! i have a nice long run for the trench, maybe 10 feet or so, so we should be set in that department. now, if only i can wait!

all the best,

Anonymous said...

I would be cautious about using transfer station compast - much of it is made from people's grass clippings - and the town's - and is far from organic. Those pesticides and herbicides have a tendency to stick around for a while. Just a suggestion.

Anonymous said...

err.. that would be compOst.

pixie said...

I have a patch. Part of it is old old old, came with the house and I understand my lot was part of a 50 year old asparagus farm! Huge spears on the old ones.

I planted 20 more crowns last year, so I have a bit of a wait on those! But once they are in they are virtually trouble free.


Elspeth said...

hi anonymous:

thank you very much for the heads up. i've been doing half transfer station/half from the garden store, since it's a big out of my price range to get it all at $37/yard! but once i fill in this hill (we have a weird little dip to fill in before the garden can grow) i'll only need a yard or two a year, so that will be much more affordable! it's definitely an important consideration.

pixie, that sounds so cool! i have seen some of those old patches in eastham...little hills rolling all over the lawn, so cool. enjoy...maybe one of these days you'll be an asparagus farmer yourself!

all the best,


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