Spring’s Wake Up Soup: Barley Asparagus Bowl
“The soups of spring… wake up the palate and celebrate new life. Their delicate flavors are a reflection, in a bowl, of the rebirth taking place around us in nature, and so require only minimal tampering,” says food writer and cookbook author Domenica Marchetti.
Soon our gardens will be turning up asparagus, chard, basil, and spring onions—perfect ingredients for creating one of these soups of spring, a Barley Asparagus Bowl.
In springtime we could find a version of this soup in almost any kitchen in Europe. The Germans, Irish and Portuguese love barley, while the French and Spanish are champions of asparagus. In Spain, asparagus spears will be white, fat, and creamy, while in France they grow green and skinny. The Italians love them, too, especially in their classic risotto. The British serve them with hollandaise sauce, whereas those creators of the hollandaise, the Dutch, make an asparagus tart with ricotta, parmesan, and tarragon that is beckoning me to Amsterdam.
Europeans innately know that Mother Nature’s loving intelligence offers elegant solutions to the challenges of her seasons, so that in spring, when the water element is dominant (snowmelt swelling the rivers, rain, clouds, fog, and mud), these ingredients ~ barley, asparagus, chard, garlic, spring onions, and the many varieties of spring greens – are naturally detoxifying foods that encourage internal circulation to warm up, lighten up and release the heaviness and stagnation of winter.
With regards to nutrition, Ayurveda focuses on balancing the six tastes of sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. In spring, our meals should be weighted towards pungent, astringent, and bitter, as these tastes give warmth, circulation, and purification to balance the heavy, wet and still somewhat cold qualities of early spring.
The astringent and bitter tastes come from the asparagus, while the garlic, onion, and basil offer pungency. We always need something sweet in our meal, as sweet gives substance. But in springtime we want a lighter “sweet” taste. In this soup, the sweet taste comes from the grain, but barley is light and slightly astringent, therefore drying, ideal for a wet season (or for a “wet” constitution).
Unlike winter soups that usually improve with time, Domenica Marchetti reminds us that “Spring soups are best enjoyed soon after they’re made… Much like the season they honor, their beauty is fleeting. But that, of course, is part of the appeal of spring soups.”
Asparagus & Barley Bowl
adapted from the book Ayurveda Cooking For Beginners
Makes: 4 Servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
1 cup barley
2 tablespoons ghee
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon curry powder or garam masala
6 cups vegetable broth
1 large bunch asparagus spears, trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 bunch chard, torn into bite-size pieces
Shoyu or Tamari, for seasoning
Fresh cracked black pepper
1. Rinse the barley, then drain and set aside.
2. Melt the ghee in a large saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the ginger and spice blend, and sauté for 1 minute.
3. Stir in the barley. Add the broth, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.
4. Stir in the asparagus and chard and gently simmer for 3 minutes more.
5. Taste and season with shoyu/tamari and a generous dusting of pepper.
Serving Tip: Instead of crackers, toast pumpkin seeds and sprinkle over the soup. Add color and fresh flavor with a garnish of basil or mint.
Dosha: Ideal for Kapha, who can add a hearty shake of cayenne or red pepper flakes while the soup cooks. Good for Pitta with the addition of mint and pumpkin seeds as toppings. For Vata, stir in a cup of coconut milk just before adding the greens.
- by Laura Plumb