Asparagus won’t be around for much longer so enjoy it while it’s in season

Local asparagus is in season now for a limited time.

You can buy asparagus all year round but nothing beats the flavour of this luxurious vegetable right now. It’s notoriously hard to grow in this country and most of the British varieties come from the Vale of Evesham in England, where generations have had plenty of experience growing it.

It’s an ancient vegetable – there are depictions of it in Egyptian friezes dating back to 3000BC. The Greeks and Romans ate it in season and then dried it for the winter months. The Emperor Augustus created an “Asparagus Fleet” for hauling this sought after vegetable. He coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” to describe a quick action. Asparagus is an almost regal plant, standing pert and proud out of the earth. Augustus was right about cooking it – into boiling salted water for a matter of minutes, until a knife can be inserted easily and then drained.

A simple recipe is to anoint it with butter and serve or if you’re feeling adventurous, serve it the classic way dipped into warm buttery Hollandaise. For something different, the first recipe is for grilled asparagus served with a walnut mayonnaise. I had this in a London restaurant a couple of years ago and it’s a great taste memory. The sauce uses two types of walnuts – toasted and pickled. You can buy pickled walnuts in most supermarkets and delis. They’re black, piquant and soft. I use them for dressings and they really are an underused and delicious ingredient.

A good quiche is another classic recipe that’s fallen by the wayside. It became a food cliché in the eighties and fell out of favour. It really shouldn’t have because a crisp pastry shell that belies a creamy, custardy wobble of filling is a thing of beauty. There’s work in a quiche but the result is magnificent. The recipe here dots the filling with asparagus and parma ham. I add some mascarpone to the mixture for a rich finish that the asparagus really deserves.

Crab and asparagus are serendipitously in season at the moment. They work beautifully together – the zing of the green vegetable with the delicate shellfish meat. The recipe here is for these two luscious ingredients paired with pasta. Orzo is a rich shaped pasta and one of my favourites – the sauce clings to it really well, meaning you get a full flavoured bite every time. The sauce is a wine and lemon reduction, finished off with butter and crème fraiche. For an accompanying salad, shave some asparagus with a vegetable slicer and toss in lemon juice, some oil and salt and pepper. Toss into some seasonal salad leaves for a fresh, citrusy hit.

Asparagus won’t be around for much longer so enjoy it while it’s here. Reserve it as a taste memory until next year when it comes round again. Just because something’s available all year round doesn’t mean you have to accept an inferior compromise. Cherish it now, put it on the back burner as a wonderful taste memory and look forward to next year’s new season.

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