My favourite local farm shops, farmers markets, Delis and of course some supermarkets are full of British asparagus as we are officially in to the eight week season! British asparagus season is officially from the end of April until mid June so make sure you buy British and enjoy this versatile vegetable while you can!
Asparagus comes from the Greek language and means ‘sprout’ or ‘shoot’. It is a spring vegetable and a member of the lily family, related to leeks, onions and garlic. It really is a special crop taking three years from seed to harvest. Each spear is harvested by hand when it reaches just the right height. White asparagus comes from the same plant as green but it is grown underground to block sunlight and prevent photosynthesis, eliminating production of chlorophyll.
With bank holidays, and the weather warming up remember there are lots of delicious ways to prepare asparagus. You can boil, steam, grill, roast, bbq and eat it raw. One of my favourite raw asparagus recipes is a gorgeous, colourful salad with feta cheese and radishes. You can also add a spear or two to a fresh green smoothie! Cooked asparagus has more cancer-fighting antioxidants but beneficial for your health both raw and eaten cooked. It is low in calories and a great source of nutrients, including fibre, and vitamins A, C and K. It has a number of potential health benefits, including weight loss, and improving digestion. Research suggests asparagus can cure hangovers and protect the liver against toxins. Here is a delicious, fuss free recipe for the weekend.
Ever heard of Samphire or sea asparagus? Even if you do not recognise the name, you may have already trod on it at the seashore or seen piles of it at farmers’ markets. And unless you’re the curious type, you might have walked right on by. Sea asparagus (Salicornia) is an otherworldly looking vegetable, and yes, it is a vegetable.Sometimes referred to as ‘poor man’s asparagus’, the difference in taste is quite significant. Whilst both are delicious in their own right and may both work in certain recipes; generally speaking, they should be thought of as entirely separate foodstuffs.
Asparagus has a more subtle taste than asparagus and can be used in mild risottos, for example. Whilst samphire may also be used in risottos, these should be ones with a stronger flavour, perhaps ones using shellfish, for example. It has a salty seawater flavour that makes it natural with seafood.