Although I’ve been at this gardening thing for seven years now, I still haven’t acquired the ability to start seeds indoors in the spring. Or perhaps it’s more a question of will than ability — who wants to mess with potting mixes, lights and timers, temperature gauges, hardening off, and the like? Some of my friends do, which is all the more reason not to bother. Yesterday, after a lovely lakeside lunch with just such a friend, he presented me with nine healthy young crucifers, plus a bag of just-picked asparagus.

I had planned to spend the afternoon writing, but those adolescent plants, each confined to a single shot of soil, clearly needed to go into the ground. It took more effort than I expected to clear a space east of the rhubarb, north of the strawberries, south of the peas. By the time I was done I was too dirty and tired to write, so I figured I might as well give the rest of the daylight to the garden. Taking a break from intense physical effort, I turned to the fiddly task of weeding the crops I had planted in the early spring — strawberries, radishes, snow peas, kale, parsnips. Then it was time for asparagus. 

A perennial, asparagus requires a large initial investment of time and effort but then rewards you with years of production. I’ve been around the block with asparagus once before, but just before the long-awaited first harvest, the plot met a tragic early demise, due to a miscommunication with the friendly neighbor who plows up my garden every year. It took me a few seasons to get over the loss, but this year I was ready to start again. The good news: now that I’ve been working this plot for a few years, it was much easier to dig the trench for the crowns. Not easy, mind you, but easier.

I love how, on television cooking shows, a dish goes into the oven just before the commercial break, and then just a few minutes later the host is enjoying a fully cooked and beautifully plated version. I felt the same kind of magical cheat when I walked inside from planning my asparagus — which will not be ready to harvest until three years from now — and enjoyed garden-fresh asparagus for dinner. Grassy-sweet and tender, these fat spears required no cooking, just a little boost of protein. I decided to make a reverse pesto: instead of fistfuls of herb with a little bit of nuts, into the blender went a pile of almonds with a small amount of wild arugula, chives, green garlic and tarragon. To get things moving I added some olive oil and lemon.

It was delicious, but about halfway though the afternoon caught up with me… I was, literally, too tired to keep chewing. I finished the almond stuff with a spoon, then I tucked the asparagus into the fridge and myself into bed.

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