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Speedy side of gardening

We planted onions and potatoes almost on time this year — it wasn’t quite St. Patrick’s Day as is the general rule of green thumb for this region, but it was shortly thereafter. The tomato and pepper plant starts that we bought have been in the ground for already a month now, which is actually a little early for us, but I knew I better go ahead and get them purchased and planted when I was thinking about them or it wouldn’t happen in such a timely fashion. 

Rows of other vegetables have also been planted at relatively decent times. The weather, especially in the mornings, has been so welcoming, and these days I always need an excuse to go outside with my outdoors-living toddler, so I’m pleasantly surprised at how well I’ve gotten things in the ground.

And they are growing! The rains we had last month were incredibly helpful for all planted things — and voluntary things, like a thousand weeds — and the beet tops are big enough to wave in the breeze, the potatoes are expanding into bushes, the okra and corn have sprouted and begun their journey upward. 

But we’re still a long ways from harvest. I walk out to the garden plot almost every day, and you know, there’s not always a lot of change. The cucumber vines are just a couple leaves and a stem, and some of those silly pepper plants look like they’ve barely grown an inch since we got them rooted in dirt. Anticipation, however, is part of the joy of gardening, and to be fair, it makes sense that it would take time to go from a teensy seed to a full plant. 

The one vegetable that ignores that logic is of course the one vegetable I consistently forget to check. We buried our asparagus crowns here at least six years ago now; we didn’t even live on the farmstead yet, but we knew we were headed here eventually and we needed our asparagus. Asparagus needs forethought, as crowns take three years to come to maturity and readiness to harvest — but then can live and produce there for 10, 15, even 30 years! Since we didn’t really know how things would be changing in the interim but we needed the asparagus to have a long-term home, we stuck it in an out-of-the-way location next to an old pig pen’s concrete slab. 

The good news is, it’s definitely out of the way, and so far shows no signs of needing to be removed from its present location. The bad news is, it’s definitely out of the in, out of sight, out of mind. Not only is the asparagus not in the garden plot, but it’s actually inside the chicken run. It’s not far away by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to duck under the peach tree, twist open the wire holding the fence shut, step around any curious hens and through all the brush, and then finally get to the asparagus patch. See, it’s sooo hard. 

All that to say, the asparagus spears tend to grow much faster than I tend to check them. I’m always delighted when I find lithe spears ready to pick, and I know they grow fast, yet somehow I’m still always shocked at how many are turning the patch into a frondy forest. But sometimes it works out, and we eventually collect enough not-woody-as-trees asparagus spears. I like to store them in a jar of water in the fridge to stay fresh until I cook them. 

And then we enjoy them while we wait in anticipation for the slower things in the garden.

Asparagus and Chicken Pasta Primavera

Asparagus grows so quickly, it seems appropriate to have a quick one-dish meal in which to celebrate it. We never get many spears at a time, especially towards the end of season like this, but that’s fine because this pasta is very flexible to however much asparagus you have. 

Prep tips: “primavera” means spring, so feel free to play with it by adding whatever spring veg you like. My basil plants were only big enough to yield me six leaves, so we had to fortify the fresh basil with some dried.

• 8 ounces whole-wheat tubular pasta (like penne, rigatoni, cavatappi)

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 yellow onion, diced

• ½ pound asparagus (or more, or less), cut in 1” pieces

• 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

• ½ cup cream

• 2 cups cooked chunked chicken

• 2 ounces sharp white cheddar, shredded

• fresh basil, thinly sliced

• salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Cook pasta, reserving a splash of the cooking water. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet, and saute onion until translucent. Add in asparagus and red pepper, and cook under tender-crisp, sprinkling with salt along the way. Reduce heat to low; stir in cream and chicken, and heat to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in cooked pasta, cheese, and basil; season to taste. 

Amanda Miller lives with her husband, almost-two-years-old son, and whoever else God brings them through foster care on the family dairy farm in Hutchinson. She enjoys doing some catering, teaching cooking classes, and freelancing, but mostly chasing after her kid(s). Reach her at