Let the Season Begin!
Some of the earliest arrivals are available at local farm stands.
Farmers are busy in their fields and greenhouses right now – readying their land, planting, and hardening off plants (which means gradually transitioning them from greenhouse to the outdoors) and even harvesting.
If you visit some of the local farms, you won’t yet find the heaping baskets and crates of fresh produce. However, this is still an exciting time when some of the earliest arrivals area available on the front porches of a few local farm stands.
While native crops and products conjure images of apples, maple syrup and corn, Concord once claimed to be the “Asparagus Capital of the World.” The asparagus beetle devastated the crops and brought asparagus growing to an end. Not completely, though. Some of the sweetest, most tender and incredibly tasty asparagus is being grown in Concord. Visit McGrath Farm (449 Barretts Mill Road) for self-serve, and Verrill Farm (11 Wheeler Road). Don’t wait! This crop appears early, but by the beginning of June will be nearly done.
Spring-dug parsnips are a special treat in April and May. The parsnips were planted last season and left in the field. The starches in the vegetable turn to sugar after remaining in the ground through the cold of winter. When harvested, the parsnips are particularly sweet. Simply scrub clean (no need to peel), slice and sauté with a little butter or olive oil and a bit of salt for a divine mouth-watering dish. You can find these at Hutchins Farm (754 Monument Street) and also at Verrill Farm. Tender baby kale and spinach are also on the self-serve porch at Hutchins Farm.
Here is a recipe inspired by some of these lovely spring gifts.
Wild Rice, Asparagus and Kale Salad
If you can get fresh baby kale, just roughly chop, stems and all, removing only the thickest stems. Later in the season when kale is full-grown or kale from the supermarket will work as well, but you will need to remove the woody stems and then use only the leafy parts.
1 ½ cups wild rice
4-5 cups loosely packed baby kale, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Extra virgin olive oil for sautéing
1 small onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends broken off, and cut into 1 inch lengths
Salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse wild rice thoroughly. Add to 4 cups boiling water, salted to taste, in a heavy saucepan. Return water to boil and stir. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 50-60 minutes or just until kernels begin to open. Fluff rice and drain any excess liquid.
- While rice is cooking, prepare asparagus. In medium sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
- Blend olive oil and Dijon mustard with a whisk. Place kale in large bowl and dress with olive oil Dijon mixture until all the kale is thoroughly coated with the dressing. While rice is still warm, pour over the kale. Transfer asparagus and onions from sauté pan into bowl with the rice and kale. Toss mixture to combine. Taste and add salt and more olive oil if necessary. Can be eaten warm, room temperature or chilled.