I discovered that wild asparagus grew on the Maryland coastline while visiting an author friend several years back. I already knew that a plant continued to yield every year but was surprised by the idea of wild asparagus in the marshlands. In my creative minds eye I can see characters hunting down wild asparagus, possibly trying to take some plants home and try to replant them. I also never considered drying them as mentioned in the first paragraph of the description. Let your imagination soar as you read these tidbits from "Science in the Kitchen." ©1893
Description. — The asparagus is a native of. Europe, and in its wild state is a sea-coast plant. The young shoots form the edible portion. The plant was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who not only used it as a table delicacy but considered it very useful in the treatment of internal diseases. Roman cooks provided themselves with a supply of the vegetable for winter use by cutting fine heads and drying them. When wanted, they were put into hot water and gently cooked.
The asparagus is remarkable as containing a crystalline alkaloid called asparagin, which is thought to possess diuretic properties.
Preparation and Cooking. — Select fresh and tender asparagus. Those versed in its cultivation, assert that it should be cut at least three times a week, and barely to the ground. If it is necessary to keep the bunches for some time before cooking, stand them, tops uppermost, in water about one half inch deep, in the cellar or other cool place. Clean each stalk separately by swashing back and forth in a pan of cold water till perfectly free from sand, then break off all the tough portions, cut in equal lengths, tie in bunches of half a dozen or more with soft tape, drop into boiling water barely sufficient to cover, and simmer gently until perfectly tender.
If the asparagus is to be stewed, break (not cut) into small pieces; when it will not snap off quickly, the stalk is too tough for use.
Asparagus must be taken from the water just as soon as tender, while yet firm in appearance. If boiled soft, it loses \ts flavor and is uninviting. It is a good plan when it is to be divided before cooking, if the stalks are not perfectly tender, to boil the hardest portions first. Asparagus cooked in bunches is well done, if, when held by the thick end in a horizontal position between the fingers, it only bends lightly and does not fall heavily down.
The time required for boiling asparagus depends upon its freshness and age. Fresh, tender asparagus cooks in a very few minutes, so quickly, indeed, that the Roman emperor Augustus, intimating that any affair must be concluded without delay, was accustomed to say, " Let that be done quicker than you can cook asparagus." Fifteen or twenty minutes will suffice if young and fresh; if old, from thirty to fifty minutes will be required.
Asparagus and Peas. — Asparagus and green peas make a nice dish served together, and if of proportionate age, require the same length of time to cook. Wash the asparagus, shell and look over the peas, put together into boiling water, cook, and serve as directed for stewed asparagus.
Asparagus Points.—Cut off enough heads in two-inch lengths to make three pints. Put into boiling water just sufficient to cover. When tender, drain off the water, add a half cup of cream, and salt if desired. Serve at once.
Asparagus on Toast. — Cook the asparagus in bunches, and when tender, drain and place on slices of nicely browned toast moistened in the asparagus liquor. Pour over all a cream sauce prepared as directed below.
Asparagus with Cream Sauce. — Thoroughly wash, tie in small bunches, and put into boiling water; boil till perfectly tender. Drain thoroughly, untie the bunches, place the stalks all the same way upon a hot plate, with a dressing prepared as follows: Let a pint of sweet cream (about six hours old is best) come to the boiling point, and stir into it salt to taste and a level tablespoonful of flour rubbed smooth with a little cold cream. Boil till the flour is perfectly cooked, and then pass through a fine wire strainer.
Asparagus with Egg Sauce. — Prepare and cook asparagus as directed above. When tender, drain thoroughly, and serve on a hot dish or on slices of nicely browned toast, with an egg sauce prepared in the following manner: Heat a half cup of rich milk to boiling, add salt, and turn into it very slowly the well-beaten yolk of an egg, stirring constantly at the same time. Let the whole just thicken, and remove from the fire at once.
Stewed Asparagus.— Wash, break into inch pieces, simmer till tender in water just to cover, add sufficient rich milk, part cream if convenient, to make a gravy, thicken slightly with flour, a teaspoonful to a pint of milk; add salt if desired, boil up together once, and serve.