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Asparagus is native to most of Europe, Northern Africa and Western Asia. The less time asparagus takes to get from field to plate the better; once asparagus is picked the sugars within the spear start to convert in to starch (resulting in a tougher spear and requires longer cooking time to break down). British grown asparagus takes approximately 24 hours to get in to supermarkets.

Traditionally only green asparagus has been grown in Britain, John Chinn a Herefordshire farmer in the Wye Valley believes that British tastes are becoming more adventurous. Consequently John is experimenting with white asparagus, which is widely grown on the continent. These spears are grown under soil banks so only their tips turn violet. They have a subtle but mildly bitter taste, other growers are also experimenting with a purple-stemmed variety from New Zealand called Purple Pacific. This purple variety is sweeter than our British green varieties.

John is also trying to extended the growing season, ‘we still only harvest from the plant for a couple of weeks but have started to develop early varieties which grown under polythene cloches’. The Chinn’s are also experimenting with gently warming the soil to 20 degrees Celsius in some of their asparagus fields, using a network of hot-water pipes. This will allow the asparagus to grow early, and hopefully the first spears will be ready in time for Valentines Day!

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can be used for virtually any dish or accompaniment, from pastas, risottos, gratins, tortillas, tarts and quiches or served cold with smoked salmon or Parma ham.

To simply cook asparagus wash the stems in cold water, trim the stalks and if tough lightly peel the bottom third of the stem. Drop the loose spears in to a pan of boiling water and cook until tender. This should take approximately 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the stem. Serve with a knob of butter or blob of hollandaise sauce.

Asparagus Recipes.pdf



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