Green Spears from the Tennyson Fields: A Carding Chronicle

SH-asparagusHuman beings love to be busy. It’s a rare person who’s content to merely sit with her or his own twiddling thumbs.

Edie Wolfe started a group dedicated to seasonal foods. This week, there’s local asparagus on the shelves of Cooper’s General Store. Care to drop in to see what’s cooking?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

By the end of May, everyone’s itching to get outside and spend time with friends.

But there have been some benefits to the just-past winter isolation. Ruth Goodwin finally learned how to text on her cell phone, a fact that makes her daughter happy. Andy Cooper took advantage of his reduced customer level to refurbish and upgrade the produce area of Cooper’s General Store. Between Andy and his brother Charlie, they made a big old mess out of the store’s entry way, forcing the folks who did venture inside to step over wiring and watch out for stray pieces of old flooring.

But by general agreement, the result is a big improvement over the dilapidated patchwork of old shelving and bins. There’s new lighting, a fancy array of sturdy baskets for items such as winter squash, apples and pumpkins, and a way to prominently display the best of the local fruits and veggies.

The Tennyson family is one of Andy’s favorite suppliers. They  own a large farm on Belmont Hill where Lee and his wife Christina form the core of the fifth generation of Tennysons to urge the best from Vermont’s sweet soil. While Lee’s always been about what can be grown in the fields, Christina has stretched their offerings to include eggs, cheese and the best Greek-style yogurt you’ll ever eat.

Now there are certain spring rituals that folks in Carding like to observe. One is the annual raft race down the Corvus River on what always turns out to the be coldest day in May. There’s the pleasure of watching the new lambs bouncing in the greening fields. (And they really do bounce.)

And then there’s the arrival of the asparagus raised in a bed first planted years ago by Lee Tennyson’s father. When the green spears appear on the shelves of Cooper’s General store, everyone’s ready to celebrate the arrival Vermont’s short-but-intense gardening season.

Edie Wolfe’s been checking for asparagus at Andy’s every day for a couple of weeks now but the green spears have been shy to appear because it’s been so cold.

It seems especially important this year because of the online cooking group that Edie Wolfe started, and now by popular demand, intends to keep on leading. The group’s activities are based on one of Edie’s favorite recipe books, Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.

Each week, the dozen members of the group choose a recipe to test and consume, reporting back on the outcome and trading cooking tips. By the time they’re done, everyone’s copy of Simply in Season will be filled with alterations and notes (and probably a few tomato-colored fingerprints).

Tennyson’s asparagus is a star in one of everyone’s all-time favorite recipes: Lemon Asparagus Pasta. Hence the anticipation for the vegetable’s appearance.

The first green spears hit Andy’s shelves at 10:00 a.m. yesterday morning. They were gone by 2:00 and cooked by 6:00. Edie thought you might like to join in the fun since it’s that time of year. So here’s the recipe (with a couple of her alterations).

Lemon Asparagus Pasta

This recipe comes together quickly at the end so it’s best to have all the ingredients prepped and at hand before you begin.

8 ounces angel hair or other pasta (Edie uses fettuccine)

2 1/2 cups asparagus cut into one-inch pieces

Cook pasta in boiling water until it has only 2 minutes to go on its cooking time. Add the asparagus and boil for that last two minutes. Drain thoroughly then return to their pan.

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup green onions, chopped (Edie uses one regular chopped onion since fresh green onions are hard to find this time of year)

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

3 tablespoons lemon juice

While pasta cooks, melt butter in large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions (green or otherwise) and lemon peel and sauté for one minute. Add lemon juice and cook until liquid is almost evaporated.

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs

Beat together. When the pasta and asparagus are ready, add the milk and eggs to the pan with the pasta and asparagus. Add the onion/lemon mixture. Stir and cook over low heat until milk mixture is slightly thick, about 4 minutes. Do not boil.

1 tablespoon fresh dill or parsley, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Edie likes to add some course-ground pepper as well.

Serve immediately on warm plates.


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