National Asparagus Day
The Green, Green 'Gras of home
By Helen Creese
I grew up in the Vale of Evesham; a market town put firmly on the map by its unbeatable Asparagus.
We Brits take our Asparagus very seriously (notice how I capitalise it, as if it’s royalty, or some divine entity). And rightly so – British Asparagus is renown for being the best in the world. The season is unbearably short, lasting just two months, May and June, but during these months, I’d happily eat nothing but the beautiful green 'gras of home.
As a kid, grandparents, neighbours and that collection of people who just love to tell ‘young folk’ what’s good for them, waxed lyrical about the benefits of this supreme vegetable – and now I find myself doing the same. Asparagus is an excellent source of the B vitamin folate (great for mums-to-be), can reduce the risks of heart disease and stroke, is full of inulin (brilliant for stimulating the growth of ‘probiotoc bacteria’ in our gut, which in turn supports our immune system) and is also rumoured to be an aphrodisiac (at least that’s what the farmers ‘round our way say)!
Not only are these delectable green spears a health benefit, buying British means that we are supporting our local growers, thus sustaining Britain’s agricultural industry. Not enough people are buying British these days – tempted by strawberries in December or runner beans in January. The delights of eating seasonal produce at the right times throughout the year are unbeatable; as kids, we loved the anticipation of the scrumping season in summer, and blackberry picking in August.
Will power is required, though – you will be tested when faced with a punnet of Spanish strawberries just crying out to be eaten. But one sure-fire way to guarantee success is to buy your fruit and veggies from a local farmers market (www.bigbarn.co.uk is a great resource), and as well as making British farmers very happy, you’ll be contributing to lowering the carbon output from the thousands of aircraft and ships importing unnecessary quantities of groceries in to the UK.
I know, I know. In an ideal world we’d all spend our Sundays strolling around the local farmers market, stockpiling the fridge for the week to come, because obviously on Sunday we know exactly what we’ll be cooking for the rest of the week….I confess – I go to the supermarket every week. There. I’m out. But in my defence, I always buy British. Another good tip is to make the most of your freezer. Practically all fruit and veg can be frozen (just avoid foods with a high water content, like lettuce and cucumber), without losing too much flavour. I always freeze fresh herbs (they taste so much better than dried). It’s hard to be good, but once you develop the habit, you’ll never break it.
So, back to the Asparagus. You can do so much with it – blanching, boiling, roasting and stir-frying. But this week’s recipe is, in my opinion, the best way to eat the stuff. The bottle of Pulp cider is obligatory if you wish to immerse yourself in the full asparagus supper experience; my recommendation would be a traditional apple cider, or pear; both complement these sublime green spears, perfectly.
AN ASPARAGUS SUPPER:
1 x bundle of Asparagus (12-16 spears, depending on appetite!)
Delicious loaf of Brown Bread (as fresh as possible, preferably still warm from the bakers oven)
Plenty of butter
Bottle/can of Pulp Cider
- Boil the asparagus in its bundle for 3-6 mins (test if ready by putting a fork through the thickest end of the stem – contrary to common eating habits, you can eat the whole of the ‘gras, so you want the fork to come out easily for ultimate tenderness).
- When ready, drain and blast briefly in sieve under cold tap to stop the cooking process.
- Slice two thick slices of bread and assemble on plate.
- Add Asparagus.
- Add lashings of butter – a knob on the Asparagus and spread on the bread.
- Eat, whilst supping a Pulp Cider.