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First garden offerings of the year make for a divine spring

Springtime bounty of taste and nutrition.
I usually notice the first asparagus spears popping up while planting my container with my favourite purple petunias for a lovely scent.

Spring weather, the scent of freshly mowed grass, budding trees and blooming flowers make the great outdoors a pleasure.

The only thing we require are spring showers to keep everything growing and refreshed — fingers crossed.

Each year, I look forward to the tastes offered by the first garden offerings of the season. They are divine, a real fresh sensation.

In just a short walk from our door, we can snap off fresh asparagus and cut a few winter-perennial onions, baby dill greens and ruby red rhubarb stocks.

Asparagus is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E, K and chromium, along with healthy fibre to keep our bodies in top form. And yes, eating it does cause odorous urine for some people, but it is worth it.

Whether you are picking right out of the garden or preparing a bundle from the farmers market or produce section, simply bend the spear and the asparagus will snap at the prefect spot for the best flavour, no cutting necessary. This method of preparation eliminates using the woody part of the spear.

To eat as a side dish or on its own, rinse and prepare by steaming for about 3 1/2 minutes, or roasting in the oven on a baking pan at 425 F (220 C) for about 20 minutes, or on the grill. Turn often when using the oven or grill method to cook. When shoots are tender, drizzle them with olive oil or butter and season with salt and pepper. My favourite is just plain fresh-steamed asparagus. But after the first few pickings, it is time to get creative.

Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry

When the weather gets warmer, it is nice to not have to turn on the oven. A quick one-dish meal prepared on the stove is a great way to up your menu choices.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. oil 30 mL
  • 12 to 15 asparagus spears, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c. slicedmushrooms 125 mL


  • 1/4 c. soy sauce 60 mL
  • 1 c. chicken broth 250 mL
  • 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce 30 mL
  • 3 tsp. minced garlic (3/4 tsp./7 mL garlic powder) 15 mL
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar 60 mL
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil 5 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger 1 mL


  • 2 tbsp. corn starch, plus 3 tbsp. (45 mL) cold water, whisk until dissolved 30 mL


  • chopped fresh green onions (I use perennial winter onion cuttings), chopped fresh dill greens, chopped parsley and sesame seeds.

Whisk together the soy sauce, chicken broth, hoisin, garlic, brown sugar, sesame oil and ginger. Set aside.

Drizzle a large skillet with oil. Sauté chicken pieces for four minutes until browned on the outside.

Add asparagus and mushrooms to the pan and continue to sauté four minutes until chicken is cooked through and asparagus and mushrooms are tender.

Pour the sauce into the skillet.

Once sauce begins to bubble, stir in corn starch and water mixture. Stir one minute until sauce thickens.

Remove from heat, garnish with sesame seeds and green onions and serve. Makes four portions.


Make it spicy: add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or one to two teaspoons sriracha to the sauce to attain the desired heat.

Add in a handful of different vegetables of the same texture to change things up, such as very thinly sliced carrots, sliced peppers or baby corn.

Use a different protein source in place of the chicken.

Source: adapted from Le Crème de La Crumb.

Let’s move up the garden path to the rhubarb.

This vegetable, often used as a fruit, has a distinctive tart taste. It is a close relative of garden sorrel. Rhubarb is rich in vitamin C and dietary fibre.

Rhubarb Crunch

Food is such a source of nostalgia. My sister-in-law and I were reminiscing over her mom’s amazing culinary skills. We used to say she could even make poplar leaves taste good. Don’t try this.

In the spring, when the rhubarb was fresh out of the ground, she would make this tart but sweet dessert. None of us had the recipe. Then by chance one day we were looking through her old reading books, and there the recipe appeared, written on a piece of paper being used as a bookmark.

  • 1 c. flour 250 mL
  • 3/4 c. rolled oats 175 mL
  • 1 c. brown sugar 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. melted butter 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL
  • 5 c. sliced rhubarb, about 1/2-inch pieces 1.25 L
  • 1 c. white sugar 250 mL
  • 1 c. water 250 mL
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch 30 mL
  • vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon until crumbly. Press half of the crumb mixture into a prepared 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) baking pan.

Spread the sliced rhubarb in the pan.

In a small saucepan, combine the white sugar, water and cornstarch. Bring to a boil over low heat. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture is thick and clear. Pour the mixture over the rhubarb in the baking pan.

Top with the remaining half of the crumb mixture.

Bake for one hour. Cool at least slightly before serving.

To serve, cut into squares and top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Best served warm. Makes eight servings.

Auntie Diane’s Rhubarb Muffins

After finding an old recipe, I dug into my family’s rhubarb repertoire. My Aunt Diane used to make the best rhubarb muffins. In fact, for my first Mother’s Day she brought me a batch.

  • 2 1/2 c. flour 625 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 1/4 c. brown sugar 300 mL
  • 1 c. buttermilk 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. oil 125 mL
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. diced rhubarb 375 mL
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional but delicious) 125 mL


  • 1/3 c. white sugar 80 mL
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 5 mL

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Prepare two 12 muffin pans.

In a mixing bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Beat brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla in a separate bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour in dry ingredients and mix by hand just until blended. Stir in rhubarb and nuts. Spoon batter into the prepared pan, filling almost to the top.

To make the streusel, stir sugar, melted butter and cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle about 1 tsp. of streusel on top of each muffin.

Bake in the preheated oven until muffin tops spring back when dabbed, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pans for at least 10 minutes before removing them.

Banana Cream Bundt

For those who don’t enjoy rhubarb or don’t have any, here is another sweet hit.

When we are filling coolers to take to the field, or when we are heading to a potluck or outdoor event, these sweets can be sliced and eaten with your hands. Add some fresh fruit to top off the experience.

  • 1/3 c. butter, softened 75 mL
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar 300 mL
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 1 1/4 c. mashed bananas(about 4) 300 mL
  • 2 c. flour 500 mL
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder 6 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg 2 mL
  • pinch of clove
  • 1 c. plain Greekyogurt 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips 125 mL (optional)
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts or hemp seed for protein 125 mL(optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Add bananas and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the yogurt until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts and hemp seed if desired.

Spoon into a greased bundt pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool, remove from pan and dust with icing sugar, if desired.

Cut into slices. Serves 12.

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: