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. It looks very strange, growing individually each spear standing alone row by row! No frills, no leaves, just asparagus, ready to be snipped at the base to eat.
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 the bank holiday, and the weather warming up remember there are lots of delicious ways to prepare asparagus. This vegetables has real flavour and the best thing about it is how quickly it cooks. It requires handly any prep, only snapping off the woody ends! 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, one pot recipe for the weekend from Anna's Family Kitchen, one of my inspirational, fellow foodies. You can find Anna on instagram at @annasfamilykitchen.
Summer Green Risotto
This simple risotto is filled with all things green. You can use any frozen veg you have (peas, edamame beans) and add any fresh green veg from the fridge I used asparagus making the most of the short season but green beans or broccoli work well.
INGREDIENTS for 4
2 onions finely chopped
4 garlic cloves crushed
300g Arborio risotto rice
150ml white wine
1.4l hot stock
45g/2tbsp grated Parmesan or Pecorino
200g frozen edamame beans
100g frozen peas
500g fresh asparagus
Fresh basil and mint leaves roughly chopped
Snap off the woody ends from the asparagus and discard them.
Chop the bases of the asparagus spears into 1/2 cm slices keeping the asparagus tips. Set the tips aside.
Colour the onion in a pan with some oil for 10 minutes before adding the garlic and the chopped asparagus stems. Stir for a minute then add the Arborio rice.
After 1 minute add the wine and let it bubble.
Add the stock one ladleful at a time until the rice is cooked (about 25-30 minutes). The texture should be creamy.
Stir through the asparagus spears, the peas, edamame beans and most of the Parmesan or Pecorino. Add a knob of butter and stick a lid on the pan for 5 minutes.
Season and serve with extra grated cheese and a drizzle of oil plus the fresh mint and basil.
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.
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.