When spring inches its way forward, there is one recipe that I invariably prepare: asparagus soup. It’s creamy, but light, and rich with the grassy green herbaceous flavor of asparagus and leeks.
Spring comes earlier to the region around us than it comes to the mountain itself. After a long and grey-white winter, when March arrives, we long for a little warmth and usually find ourselves on the road for a day visit to the hot springs. If there’s been a good start to spring, we’ll see a woman pulled over along the high, the tailgate of her rusted blue truck open, selling freshly picked asparagus out of an icy cooler. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, she’ll sell you honey too.
We pull over and I’ll buy far more than my family of three could possibly eat (it’s only $1 / pound!). We eat it raw by the handful for freshly picked asparagus lacks the astringent quality of its long-traveled, store-bought cousin. I roast it, and I make this asparagus soup – my favorite – three or four times. We’ll have our fill, until next spring.
How and Why Asparagus Soup Nourishes
Asparagus is highly anti-inflammatory and rich in several antioxidants including beta carotene, glutathione, quercetin and rutin. Further, asparagus is also rich in the vitamins K1 and folate as well as the minerals selenium and manganese.
Asparagus is also rich in the prebiotic inulin which is also found in Jerusalem artichokes and chicory root. Inulin, like other prebiotics, provides food for beneficial bacteria – thus nourishing the bacteria in your intestinal tract. If your intestinal tract is healthy and teeming with beneficial bacteria, this is good; however, if your intestinal tract is compromised by potentially opportunistic bacteria or you suffer from gut dysbiosis, inulin may exacerbate the issue which is why GAPS patients are typically told to avoid inulin-rich foods. You can learn more about prebiotics and probiotics here.
Broth made from bones, in this case chicken bone broth, is potently rich in easy-to-assimiliate minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. It is also rich in amino acids, particularly proline which promotes skin and heart health as well as glycine which promotes good digestion, skin health and improved wound healing.
Bone broths are also rich in naturally occurring gelatin which promotes digestive health as well as good skin. I typically keep a slowcooker full of broth simmering continuously on my kitchen counter – find out more about my method for perpetual soup here.
cream and butter
My favorite asparagus soup, like many of my favorite foods, uses cream and butter with abandon. These foods, like asparagus, are at their best in the spring when cows can graze on the fast-growing and lush grasses of spring. Springtime butter and cream from grass-fed cows are extraordinarily rich in nourishing fats: conjugated linoleic acid which shows promise in reducing the risk of cancers and metabolic syndrome, as well as trans-palmitoleic acid which shows promise in mitigating the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Butter and cream from grass-fed cows are also rich sources of fat-soluble vitamins particularly vitamins A, E and K2. These fat-soluble vitamins support cognitive function, heart health, bone health, immunity and the reproductive system. Further, healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins help you to better absorb the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables (which is another reason to butter you vegetables).
- 2 pounds asparagus
- 1 large leek
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream, (preferably raw)
- Chop off the woody ends of the asparagus and reserve. Chop about ½-inch of the tender asparagus tips and reserve in a separate bowl. Chop the middle third of the asparagus at ½-inch intervals and set aside in a third bowl.
- Slice the white and light green part of the leek thinly, reserving the dark green leaves and the root tip.
- Pour stock into a large stock pot and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Toss in the woody asparagus ends, leek trimmings and bay leaves. Simmer, covered, for twenty minutes.
- While the stock simmers, melt butter in a cast iron skillet. When it froths, stir in thinly sliced leeks. Fry in butter for about one minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the chopped asparagus middles and continue to fry, stirring periodically, for about five minutes.
- Strain the stock and return it to the stock pot. Stir in the sauteed leek and asparagus. Simmer over medium heat for twenty minutes or until the asparagus is tender. Turn off the heat, stir in heavy cream and puree the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth.
- In a separate pot, bring about 1 pint of water to a boil. Toss in asparagus tips and boil for two to three minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into ice water to reserve their color. Drain and stir into the soup. Serve immediately