I've been hearing from friends in western Onondaga County that Tim's Pumpkin Patch has amazing asparagus. You've probably been to Tim's in the late summer or fall. Owners Tim and Eric Leubner grow nearly 70 acres of pumpkins and squash, have a corn maze and animal barn and run a bakery and gift shop. The place gets packed on fall weekends. About 12 years ago, the Leubners started to plant asparagus for a spring crop. They now have about two acres of it, according to Erica Leubner, and expand it with about 2,000 more plants every other year.
It's quiet on Rose Hill Road, in Marietta, on a sunny spring morning. I decided to take a drive and was greeted with a beautiful selection of just-picked green and 'Purple Passion' asparagus, banded in one-pound bundles, standing in trays of water. One by one, cars pulled in and people hopped out and left with a bunch or two of asparagus. The smart people brought containers filled with a little water, for carrying the asparagus home.
It's priced at $3.50 per bunch. I made sure I had small bills in my wallet, knowing that the farm stand is self serve, "cash and carry'' with an "honor box.'' Arrive with a $20 and there is no guarantee you'll be able to make change. Arrive with a debit or credit card and you're out of luck. I picked out two beautiful bunches of green asparagus tinged with purple and left $7 in the box.
On the drive home, I thought about what I might make with the asparagus. Soup? Salad? Quiche?
In the end, I decided to keep it simple, because something as fresh and delicious as local asparagus doesn't need any special treatment. Snap the ends off the asparagus, slice it and steam it on the stove in a steamer basket until tender-crisp. Place the tips of the asparagus at the top of the basket, on top of the stalks, so they stay nice and tender. Drain the asparagus, return it to the pan and add a little butter, salt and pepper.
The next night, I left the spears long, tossed them with a little balsamic vinaigrette, salt and pepper, and roasted them in the oven until brown but still crisp. If I had any leftover, I'd eat it again tonight with a poached egg on top and a hunk of crusty, toasted baguette on the side. But who ever has leftover local asparagus? You eat it until it's gone!