Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, asparagus grew wild in most parts of the world. Most likely, it originated around the Mediterranean where it grew prolifically in sandy and volcanic soils, benefiting from the close proximity to the sea. Even today, Cretans, known for their expert foraging techniques, enjoy wild asparagus and other greens found anywhere their walking stick (katsouna) take them. Tackling the craggy cliffs and rugged coasts of the island is all in a days work for the collector of such greens. I wonder how ridiculous we would look to that same forager as we squabble about parking spots or stress about not finding our favorite ice cream flavor at our local supermarket.
I suppose our panacea for all of this unruly behavior is the farmers’ markets that have sprouted up in those same supermarket and public lots that we fight over when running to the store to pick up dinner that merely fills our stomachs, not our spirits. I admit I’m guilty of being a spoiled consumer on occasion, and soothe my conscious by shopping my local farmers market.
But have you noticed what’s happened there lately? If you’re not careful, you’ll run into the same pushy behavior that you can find at your local store. So maybe it’s just us that needs to take a breath, step back and let someone pass, and unload our stress in a different way.
So how does asparagus have anything to do with shopping and stress? I guess if we all had to return to a simpler time and forage for our food in order to feed ourselves and our family, if living were a matter of scratching the soil for anything edible, we might all be a little more friendly, forgiving, and respectful.
The above photo of asparagus, as beautiful as they appear, was a sad reminder of my hurried visit to a crammed lot with too many people, anxious vendors, and market restrictions that only allow farmers to sell certain items (even when their livelihood depends on selling more).
Asparagus and Wild Greens Salad with Kefalograviera
Kefalograviera is a semi-hard Cretan cheese, similar to Italian Asiago, but with a bit more of a bite.
1/2 bunch thin asparagus (about 1/2 lb.)
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups loosely packed greens such as arugula, purslane, watercress, or a combination of all
2 oz. Kefalograviera cheese
1. Wash and snap ends off asparagus; blanch quickly in salted boiling water, about 2 minutes. Remove from water and set aside. When cool, slice each stalk in half crosswise and lengthwise.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and salt and pepper. Add olive oil in a steady stream, mixing until well incorporated.
3. In a large serving bowl, toss together greens and asparagus. Drizzle dressing and with a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips of cheese on top of salad; toss and serve.