Spring fever

The first strawberries arrived at the Saturday Berkeley farmers market, which to me marks the official start of spring. I didn’t get any, as I thought I would pick some up on the way back past the one stand that had them (Catalan Farm, I think?) and by then, of course, they were gone.

But asparagus became available a few weeks ago, and we’ve been feasting on it ever since — tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted simply in the oven, or incorporated into frittatas.

This year was the first time I have ever eaten just-picked asparagus: I tagged along when my husband photographed Vision Cellars winemaker "Mac" McDonald for an upcoming Edible San Francisco out at his place in Windsor, CA; Mac plucked a tender head straight off a stalk shooting out of the dirt and offered it to me. So sweet and crunchy, as tender as lettuce or a fresh pea, needing no accompaniment nor heat whatsoever.

This is one of the unexpected rewards of eating seasonally: the pure joy of eating something you love after a hiatus. It’s like being reunited with a friend you haven’t seen in a while and whose quick wit and infectious laugh you’d almost forgotten. I have barely eaten any asparagus since last summer, or strawberries since the fall. (Yes, yes, we’re spoiled with the long growing season here, but quit yer belly-aching: we pay for living in paradise with obnoxious congestion, ridiculous prices, and earthquakes.) America’s modern middle classes deny ourselves so very little that a bit of self-imposed deprivation, to me anyway, pays off in double pleasure. I love this asparagus infinitely more than what I could have bought in the grocery store all winter long — which would never had tasted good raw, all by itself.

Spring also means a surfeit of lemons amongst my friends. We have a tree I planted in the backyard, but its fruits are long on rind and short on juice. Fresh lemonade is one of my favorite things, and I have been experimenting with making a spicy version of Marc’s Whole Lemon Lemonade, using less organic evaporated cane sugar than the recipe calls for, plus finely diced fresh ginger (I usually supplement with powdered too, to get the full strength I’m after), and a few dashes of cayenne.

For his birthday I bought Bart a home carbonator, so he can make the sparkling water that he likes so much and that I adamantly refuse to keep buying on a carbon-footprint basis. (He still gets it in restaurants; I have only so much influence.) Yesterday we added our concentrated spicy lemonade to some carbonated water: "We’ve re-invented Limonata!" said Bart.

It’s the perfect drink for spring, with or without the bubbles. Make some!

Delushous variation: Turns out it also goes wonderfully with a slug of the vodka I’ve been infusing since December with locally foraged Buddha’s hand

Note to newshounds: Sorry, but the warm weather and lengthening sunlight, combined with finally feeling almost physically well again, have meant a strange aversion to the computer, which is why there was no midweek Digest. Look for it late tonight or tomorrow.

5 Responsesto “Spring fever”

  1. Spring… Spring? Did I hear those hopeful words? I’m trying to envision it. Maybe that will help the snows melt… :) Those berries and shoots look delicious! Lemons are something I only dream of growing. Maybe a greenhouse… yes… perhaps. :)

  2. Charlotte says:

    Picking wild asparagus along “the lane” at my grandmother’s farm is one of my most treasured childhood culinary memories. Of course, they grew best right out of big cow pies, but they were so delicious we rarely got back to the house with any to cook. When I lived in Telluride in my 20s, there’s a stretch of highway outside of Norwood, on the other side of the county, where asparagus grows. Every spring, the word would come back — the old ladies had been seen on the roadside, and we’d drive out in search of the elusive wild asparagus. Local legend here in Livingston MT has it that the Chinese workers planted asparagus along the railroad lines, but I haven’t been lucky enough to find a patch yet. However, since spring had yet to sprong here in the north, perhaps there’s hope yet …

  3. Becks says:

    Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures – you made my mouth water!

    I’m so sad that none of the organic farmers at the Temescal Farmers Market in Oakland grow asparagus. Maybe I’ll have to hop on the bus and visit the Berkeley market this weekend.

  4. Hillary says:

    So pretty! I’m just as excited for spring as you are.

  5. Dan says:

    Are you happy with your carbonator? I’ve been thinking about buying either a carbonator or a soda siphon, due to a similar carbonated water addiction that’s making it difficult for me to kick the bottled stuff!