On Saturday morning I forced my mother and my kids to march down the gravel road that leads to the highway. I told them they were to rustle up some grub, by golly — and that if they didn’t find any, we all might go hungry.
In actuality, we were out hunting for asparagus, and it was a fun little adventure. But probably none of my companions were as eager as I to get out on the road and pick the stuff, which grows wild around here and comes up with the temperatures in the spring.
A few days ago I got the inkling that it was about time to start picking asparagus — there was a certain feeling in the air. Once I get that inkling, my fingers start to itching to start picking (how’s that for a sentence?) because I’m paranoid about the weekenders from faraway places like Billings who come down and drive the roads and sometimes get to our county’s crop of the spring’s first asparagus before we locals do.
My mom and kids, they could probably shrug this travesty off.
But not me. To me it is vital that we personally beat the anonymous weekenders to the asparagus. It is the bounty of the land we live on, after all, and we, we the people who live up this road, deserve to reap its benefits.
So we hunted.
Asparagus grows wild along the drain ditches here, but whether it is a native plant I can’t say. I wonder if seeds were originally brought in by homesteaders and just spread up and down waterways?
Either way, it’s a hardy plant, coming back year after year in the same stands, often marked by the tall, dead stalks that went to seed last year.
What a joy to find those first asparagus spears of the year peeking out from under the grass!
Each year I marvel again that this seemingly-inhospitable corner of Eastern Montana actually puts forth food suitable for humans. Each year I wonder, again, exactly what the Indians in this part of the world used to eat. Because as much as we Blakes enjoy eating asparagus for the two weeks it’s in season each year, if you ate only what the land provided around here… well, I think you’d be mighty hungry a lot of the time.
Oh, and by the way, guess who I spotted creeping up and down the county roads today in their shiny-clean vehicles? Weekenders. I bet they were from Billings. And I bet they were looking for asparagus.
Ha! Beat you to it!
© Tami Blake