Black Hills Wild Asparagus


Late spring brings wild asparagus to the Black Hills. The first time I actually saw them was the day after the big fire. I was standing outside, surveying the rubble from the former Corn Exchange. Michael Melius appeared with a bucket of just picked wild asparagus. I had forgotten that earlier in the week he had come in to the Corn and had chatted with me about local produce. He wondered if I would be interested in fresh, wild asparagus. I was elated. The first thing that popped into my mind were savory tartlets that I could sell as a lunch item. I agreed and he said he would stop by on Friday. Well here it was Friday and we both were in shock staring at what was left of my little specialty food shop. Knowing Michael I believe he just gave me some asparagus and I cooked it later at my sister’s house where we were temporarily living. I would hook up with him and his local produce down the path when the Corn rose up from the ashes like a phoenix. I never realized that I would end up on the other half of the block that wasn’t destroyed. I would purchase purple garlic, Yukon gold potatoes and of course wild asparagus that I lovingly prepared for my patrons. I am always perplexed why more people don’t create salads out of asparagus. It seems here that everyone wants to do it as a side with a big steak. At the Corn I felt it was just too cost prohibitive to serve as an entrée vegetable and thought it more creative to use as a starter. I created a Maytag blue cheese and orange segment salad with wild asparagus for Rachel Ray’s Magazine one year. I put them in a goat cheese tarts with a side of mixed greens and for my lunch today a tomato and mozzarella salad drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon and fresh chives. Tomatoes are not really in season and normally I would of roasted tomatoes in the oven to create the salad but since this tomato had been on my counter for the past week, I felt it was in perfect condition at room temperature. Excellent with a great rose from Kermit Lynch!