May Season’s Feastings – Asparagus

Fresh British asparagus is the best in the world, but it’s only around for a teasingly short time.

In the UK, asparagus season traditionally begins on the 23rd of April and ends on Midsummer’s Day. This brief window for harvest goes some way to explain the premium price that asparagus can sometimes attract and one of the reasons why it is considered such a foodie prize.

Of course, it’s not just its scarcity that makes asparagus so special. It has a sweet, utterly unique flavour and evokes the summer from the first bite.

While we are used to seeing asparagus in bright shades of green, but purple and even white varieties also exist and can be prevalent elsewhere in Europe.

Sprue is the very young and particularly slender early asparagus. This needs even less cooking than the more mature and sturdy stems.

Selection and storing tips

It’s worth seeking out a trusted local supplier if you can.

Soon after harvesting, the sugars in asparagus convert to starch, meaning that flavour is lost and the texture can become slightly woody. So it’s important to get the freshest asparagus you can. Opt for firm smooth spears, with closely packed buds. Make sure that the base is not dry or brown at the cut.

It’s best to use asparagus as soon as possible, but if you need to store it for a couple of days, then I recommend treating it a little like a bunch of flowers! Trim the ends and then place upright in a jar with a little water in the bottom before placing in the fridge.

For a seasonal feast

For a simple but delicious summer lunch or side dish, try grilled asparagus with the season’s new potatoes. Or enjoy a hint of the flavour by combining with peas, young spinach or spring greens in a classic pasta primavera.