I cannot tell you how excited I get when late-April rolls around, and the asparagus season rushes on to us. Yes, you can get it almost any time of year but the Peruvian imports of November taste like skinny peas. It just doesn’t travel well. This is one ingredient where buying British is unequivocally best.
Thankfully scarcity is not the only reason to cherish it; the wonderful vegetable can paired with so many flavours. It loves strong salty partners like feta cheese, olives and Parma ham; yet happily mellows along with white sauces, soft-boiled egg yolk and mozzarella. And asparagus can be cooked in a multitude of ways: steamed and dotted with butter, roasted and drizzled with balsamic vinegar, barbecued and wrapped in prosciutto.
A couple of years ago I took a tour of a local farm at the start of asparagus season and had a go at picking the first of the crop. Fresh out of the ground it was crisp and vibrant, emerald-green and tempting. If you want to find a farm near you check out British Asparagus. You cannot beat it locally grown, except perhaps at home! I’ve grown it in the garden before (see above!) and after the 3 year gestation you end up with fabulously luscious and tender spears.
It’s narrow window of perfection, plus the various ways you can make the most of asparagus, that makes it feel like a treat. It’s not an everyday workhorse like the carrot or the broccoli but a brief guest on the dinner table, and should be spoiled rotten while you can.
Waitrose asked me to write about something that is ‘Best of British’. What could be better? This will soon be up against some other ‘Best of British’ things on their Facebook page so cheer me on!