By Dr. Kirsten West, ND, LAc
Nothing says spring to me like morel mushrooms and asparagus. (Besides, mushrooms, in general, might just be my favorite food.)
It is important to eat by the season and source the local produce available. Not only does this help to support local farms but it also helps the body adapt to the changing seasons. Mother nature has provided us with those foods, which help the body “flow” with the changing of temperatures and the environment in which we live.
Morel mushrooms tend to make their way to produce aisles and markets in the spring. They are one of about 140,000 different types of mushrooms on the earth and only about 10% (approximately 14,000 species are known). Morels can be found on the edge of forested areas on south-facing slopes. They are harvested in the spring, when the ground is warming
Their inclusion into the mushroom family makes them one of the most medicinal foods there is. Mushrooms’ polysaccharide content (the majority of which are Beta-glucans) make them immunostimulatory and also immunomodulating. Their healing properties have been known for thousands of years. In fact, in Japan, they are commonly used alongside chemotherapy to support the immune system and its function. The right mushroom varieties, cooked correctly, are also delicious.
And then there is asparagus, which holds a special place in my heart, as it reminds me of Germany with my dad. We spent a month there, during asparagus “spargel” time and sure enough, every restaurant we visited featured some sort of asparagus dish. Mind you, it was white asparagus; a different variety, more expensive and not as popular in the US. Because the green variety is easier to obtain, it is used in this recipe (however, white, green or purple (yes purple) asparagus can be used interchangeably).
(NOTE: Interestingly enough, to grow white asparagus you simply deny it of sunlight during its growth. This inhibits photosynthesis and subsequently, the green color of the plant. It turns out that in Germany, the very sandy soils are particularly suited to the growing process and in these areas White “Spargel” is a big business.)
The health benefits of asparagus are considerable. Asparagus is chock full of vitamin A, C, E, K, and it also contains protein and fiber. In addition, asparagus contains an amino acid by the name of asparagine, which makes it a natural diuretic (making it a great food source during a urinary tract infection!). And yes, it does make your pee smell – but only some can actually smell it. That is because only a certain percentage of the population carries a genetic variant, which allows for the scent recognition. That’s right… everyone’s pee smells after eating asparagus, whether you can smell it or not, is the question. (Note: studies have revealed that about 42 percent of men and 38.5 percent of women are able to smell the unique urinary odor associated with asparagus post its consumption.)
Now, how to make a delicious asparagus and morel mushroom dish
You will need:
- Baking sheet
- Large stainless steel pan
- Mixing bowl
- Mixing spoon
Ingredients (which are enough to yield two servings):
- 1 bunch of thin asparagus spears, trimmed (to remove woody stalks, simply grab stalk at either end and bend until it snaps)
- 8 ounces of morel mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and split in half lengthwise
- 1 small shallot (optional)
- 3 Tablespoons (or more) of olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon of coconut or avocado oil
- Sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
- 2 cloves of minced garlic (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons of butter (grass-fed sourced and finished)
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- ¼ Cup chicken stock
- 1 Tablespoon of minced fresh herbs (chives, chervil and/or parsley are great)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place asparagus in a mixing bowl and coat with olive oil (can use liberally), sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and 1 clove of minced garlic (if using).
Line the spears on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes depending on thickness of spears. They should not be too soft or too hard.
While those spears are in the oven, heat coconut or avocado oil in a large stainless steel pan over high heat until it is simmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are well-browned. (typically, about 4 minutes total)
Reduce heat to medium-high and add shallots and garlic (if using). Stir occasionally, until fragrant (typically about 45 seconds). Add butter, lemon juice and chicken stock. Cook until the liquid reduces and morels are coated in a creamy sauce. At this time, stir in herbs and season to taste, with salt and pepper.
Coat asparagus spears with the morels.
This dish is best served alongside a protein of choice.
(Closing note: For those who are genetically gifted, a specific urinary fragrance may be noted in as little as 20 minutes’ post consumption of this dish. And remember, you are one of the few.)