Preserved Asparagus

Dill pickles are delicious. Asparagus is tasty. That does not automatically mean that it's a good idea to combine the two.

Years ago, my late husband brought home a gift from a friend—a jar of the friend's mother's homemade pickled asparagus.

Asparagus was far and away Wayne's favorite vegetable. When he was growing up in eastern South Dakota, his family had asparagus in abundance without ever needing to plant it, because it grew wild all over the place. The most plentiful spot for it on their farm was a shelter belt that they called their "asparagus trees." This brought them funny looks from people who were pretty sure that asparagus didn't grow on trees.

His mother would cook asparagus with butter, cook asparagus with cream, and freeze asparagus. One thing she didn't do, however, was make pickles out of it. We thought it would be fun to keep the jar until she was visiting, so we could all find out together what pickled asparagus tasted like.

We stuck the jar in a kitchen cupboard. There it stayed, because, of course, by the next time his mother came to visit, we had forgotten all about it.

Time went by, and life went on, bringing its larger and smaller gifts. It also brought tragedy. Wayne was killed when his small plane crashed into a tranquil piece of North Dakota prairie, a lot like the place he had grown up.

A few months later, I sold our house. One of the things I found when I was packing was the jar of pickled asparagus. I stuck it into a box with the other canned goods and hauled it to my new house, determined not to forget about it this time. I planned to give it as a gag gift to one of the friends who had helped me move, but unfortunately he didn't make it to the thank-you dinner. (Not, as far as I know, because he had heard about the pickled asparagus in advance.)

When I sold that house over a year later, the jar was still in the cupboard. I moved it again. This time, though, I wasn't going to stick it away and forget about it. One evening, with no guests, no special occasion, no reason whatsoever except curiosity, I finally opened the jar to taste the pickled asparagus.

One taste was more than enough. Asparagus has a strong flavor to begin with. When you compound that with a too-generous amount of garlic and an overkill of dill, you have, in my opinion, committed a culinary crime. By giving cupboard space to the jar all that time—not to mention moving it twice—I had no doubt been guilty of aiding and abetting. The pickled asparagus went straight to the compost pile, where the deer avoided it for weeks.

The moral to the story? When life hands you unexpected gifts, don't stash them away in a cupboard. Open them right away. It gives you a chance to enjoy them and maybe even get some more. Or, if they turn out to be pickled asparagus, it allows you to save yourself time and trouble by getting rid of them right away.

Categories: Food and Drink, Living Consciously | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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