Everyone loves spring; warmer weather, lush green landscape, blossom, the new leaves unfurling, hay fever, pesky birds scratching up the garden … and asparagus.
Asparagus is available virtually all year round these days, but it’s always best when picked in season. No surprises there. NOW is the time for asparagus.
I prefer spears with thick stems because they are much juicier than the thinner ones. There is no difference in the quality, just the maturity of the plant.
Look for spears with tightly closed tips with no sign of flowering and smooth stems, creases mean the asparagus has been picked for a while and is beginning to dry out.
We mostly have green asparagus in our shops but keep an eye out for precious white asparagus. This is actually the same plant but the soil covers the stem as it grows meaning no chlorophyll can develop. White asparagus is usually quite thick and needs to be cooked for slightly longer than the green, giving it a delicious buttery quality. Asparagus is best treated simply so its brilliance can shine.
I cook mine in lightly salted boilng water until tender, drain it then rest on a tea towel to absorb excess water. Then all is needed is some good salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pour of your favourite extra virgin olive oil, local of course.
If I want to have the asparagus cold I leave it to cool in its own time rather than plunging into cold water; the colour isn’t quite as vibrant but the flavour is vastly better.
Cooked like this, asparagus is superb with soft cooked eggs, smoked fish, toasted chopped hazelnuts, shaved parmesan, silky prosciutto, crisp bacon or any combination you wish. Pile it up on your favourite platter and include it in your salads.
Buy it little and often and eat as much as possible.
Asparagus Throughout History
Ah asparagus, you noble and honourable vegetable. In the 1st century B.C Romans loved asparagus so much that they preserved it by freezing it in the Alps. Plus Queen Nefertiti of Egypt proclaimed that asparagus was food of the Gods! Here are some fun facts about our much beloved plant…
1. It takes three years to go from seed to harvesting.
2. If you eat too much of it, your pee smells funny
3. White asparagus is one of the most labour-intensive vegetables to grow
4. Oceana County, Michigan, is self-proclaimed asparagus capital of the world
5. Chickens can help farm asparagus
6. Asparagus is recognised as one of the world’s leading natural aphrodisiacs
Who said vegetables were boring?