Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Morel and Wild Asparagus Risotto for dinner

You can find patches of wild asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) in nearly the entire United States, if you know where and when to spot them. In our area, they are found in old fields, perhaps left over from farmland gardens, or planted when birds consumed the red berries in the autumn. It's easiest to spot them in late summer, though, after they have shot up to 4 feet tall and formed their feathery branches and sparse berries--which are not edible. The foliage has a greenish-blue hue, so it stands out in a field of mostly green grass or maturing hay. Then the trick is to remember all of the places you saw the asparagus growing and come back in the spring to collect them when they are shoots, which is the stage we all recognize from the grocery store.

Morels (Morchella americana) are out at the same time, and these two spring foods combine well for a tender and flavorful risotto. As a matter of fact, it was a few years ago that we were collecting some wild asparagus in a field surrounded by old ash trees, when Robert noticed there were actually morels growing in the grass, 149 of them! While the asparagus patch still produces a few dozen spears each year, we haven't found the bounty of morels again, this year only finding 8 of them in the woods nearby.

The risotto was made with vegetable broth that had a few dried morels added for flavor, white wine, sauteed morels, steamed asparagus, and some fresh chopped ramps greens.

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