I thought asparagus was at least a few more weeks away, but it appeared at two stalls at the Reading Terminal Market today, along with two other sure signs of spring: morels and ramps.
Over at Iovine Brothers Produce, pencil-thin asparagus from Mexico stood side-by-side with heftier (but by no means excessively large or woody) stalks from Sun Valley Orchards in Swedesboro, N.J. Tough choice: 2,300 miles from Mexico or 30 miles from Swedesboro? The Fair Food Farmstand also had asparagus today from a producer on the other side of the Delaware.
Expect to see lots more asparagus in the next few weeks. I hope they hold out for the opening of Headhouse Square and other farmers' markets in early May.
Iovine's morels no doubt came from a greater distance that the Swedesboro asparagus. I didn't ask, but my guess is the Pacific Northwest. Still, the plastic and tray wrapped fungi hadn't dried out, and there was only one soft spot showing signs of deterioration. Hardly locally foraged like I used to get from the late Sam Consylman or found at the Dane County Farms Market in Wisconsin, but they'll work.
I passed by the ramps at Iovine's (too expensive) but quickly grabbed a $4.95 bag of them at Fair Food: excellent quality and at about half the price.
I didn't get a chance to visit the Rittenhouse Square Farmers' Market today, but its weekly newsletter said to expect local fiddleheads and watercress in addition to ramps.
I'll be using the asparagus, morels and ramps to replicate a dish first enjoyed nearly 20 years ago at L'Etoile, the shining star of the restaurant renaissance in Madison, Wisconsin. There, asparagus, mushrooms and shallots were scattered about a plate centered by a ring of savory custard and adorned with a light butter sauce. I'll go the same route tonight, wih both morels and oyster mushrooms in the mix and ramps replacing the shallots. A crusty baguette and a glass or two of chilled Alsatian Riesling will complete the meal.