Spring is here! It’s that brief period in the British culinary calendar when asparagus pops up from the ground and onto lots of menus in restaurants, and across the grocery shelves.
Asparagus has been cultivated for 2,500 years. We’ve heard that Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus was such a fan that he organised elite military units to search it out. Now he would only need to look to his nearest supermarket.
Although imports are available all year round, British asparagus is only available from May–June. The start of the season is always around St George’s Day, 23 April, which is also this year’s National Asparagus Day. Around the world, growers welcome this fabulous food with special asparagus festivals.
Did you know that asparagus is nutrient packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium and iron? It needs little or no preparation other than a bit of a wash. For larger asparagus (which has a stronger flavour), bend the spear until it snaps and throw the woody end away. If the ends still feel tough, you can peel down the exterior to expose the more tender flesh beneath.
Boil for 3–5 minutes or steam for 4–5 (depending on size), then serve with olive oil and sea salt. Alternatively, chop and bake it in a quiche. Try this beautiful asparagus, potato and broccoli vegan quiche from our website.
You can also combine it with peas, broad beans, young spinach leaves and seasonal fresh herbs for a pasta primavera. For a delicious simple option, it can be brushed with oil, sprinkled with sea salt and roasted for 10–15 minutes or grilled for 5 minutes or so, then served with vegan parmesan shavings and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
See more recipes on our website. For something a little different, try this paella. Although white asparagus would be more likely used in Spain (because that’s how they grow it there), this is a tasty twist using home-grown varieties.
When choosing your asparagus, look for straight, plump and firm shoots with tips that are tightly closed and are dark green or purple tinged. If the tips are yellowish or dried out, the asparagus is too old. Avoid limp or mottled asparagus.
To store your asparagus, wrap in damp kitchen paper, put in a perforated paper bag or wrap and keep in the salad drawer of the fridge. You can also store it in a container of water in the fridge.