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asparagus

Asparagus

Asparagus

Asparagus grows from long-lived rhizomes that spread underground.  The spears are the tender young shoots of Asparagus officinalis that grows into a fernlike plant over a metre tall when harvesting ends. 


The spears start pushing through the ground in early Spring.  In recent years, a variety of ‘early-season’ asparagus has been developed enabling some producers to get an Asparagus crop to market ahead of the game.  Normally, the asparagus farmer has a few weeks of frantic activity harvesting the crop for market, and then it's all over until next year.  Traditionally, in the UK, the season begins around St George's Day (23 April) and by mid-Summer's Day cutting should stop.  The plants continue to put up spears but these are allowed to grow into tall fronds that photosynthesise in order to build up nutrients in the rhizome for next year's crop.  In November the plant is cut back to ground level.  


It takes about three years for an asparagus crown to become established and, if treated right, it can be productive for 10 years.  Harvesting of Asparagus has to be done by hand. The white version is even more labour intensive as the growing spears have to be banked-up with soil to produce the blanched stems.  Popular since the 18th century, white asparagus has a more delicate flavour than the green.  If exposed to light after harvest, white asparagus will turn yellow or reddish.  Purple varieties of asparagus are high in anthocyanins, though, like other purple and red coloured vegetables, cooking results in loss of this colour and it turns green. 


This all adds up to making asparagus one of the most expensive treats of spring and early summer.  Freshness is key to taste so, when you do finally get your hands on it, don't let it linger in the fridge or it will lose its sweetness.  The spears are packed with beneficial nutrients - vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium and iron.  They have a natural snap-point separating the tough from the tender parts, so, it’s best to bend the spear and snap off the base rather than cut it for cooking.  Young, fresh spears don’t need to be peeled but later ones benefit from peeling the lower 6cm or so.  


The first, fresh Asparagus are fantastic eaten raw.  Slice thinly, and toss in a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  The wispy early spears marketed as ‘Wild Asparagus’, or later thin spears known as sprue, are wonderful for par-boiling then adding to an omelette or frittata.  Thicker spears can be plunged into boiling water for a few minutes until just tender – melted butter, mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce are good accompaniments.  Asparagus has an affinity with eggs so pairing them is a very good idea.  To cook the spears on a griddle or to roast them in the oven in olive oil, par-boiling for one minute in boiling water first is recommended.  




May 2018  Seasonal News

May 2018 Seasonal News

English Asparagus     Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands       MAY       This time last year we were talking of having had English Asparagus at the beginning of April, only for it then to be hit by late frosts.  This year we collected our first Kent-grown crop last week.  Despite it feeling late, it was around St George’s Day which is the traditional time for starting to cut the crop.  It’s hard to resist people’s desire for earlier harvests but nature knows best and this year’s first cut of English Asparagus from our preferred grower was definitely worth the wait.       April passed in the UK feeling very similar to March.  Save for a few days of warmth mid-month, conditions have been unseasonably cold in most of Europe delaying spring planting.  Italy did provide us with Broad Beans, Peas and Cucumbers; France delivered Wet Garlic and Fraise Clery Strawberries; and the UK produced Jersey Royals, Wild Garlic, Sprouting Broccoli, field-grown Rhubarb and the first good Asparagus.  A burst of sun arrived in the form of Mangoes from India, including Alphonso.  We are definitely overdue some good growing weather.        

English Asparagus

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

 

MAY

 

This time last year we were talking of having had English Asparagus at the beginning of April, only for it then to be hit by late frosts.  This year we collected our first Kent-grown crop last week.  Despite it feeling late, it was around St George’s Day which is the traditional time for starting to cut the crop.  It’s hard to resist people’s desire for earlier harvests but nature knows best and this year’s first cut of English Asparagus from our preferred grower was definitely worth the wait.  

 

April passed in the UK feeling very similar to March.  Save for a few days of warmth mid-month, conditions have been unseasonably cold in most of Europe delaying spring planting.  Italy did provide us with Broad Beans, Peas and Cucumbers; France delivered Wet Garlic and Fraise Clery Strawberries; and the UK produced Jersey Royals, Wild Garlic, Sprouting Broccoli, field-grown Rhubarb and the first good Asparagus.  A burst of sun arrived in the form of Mangoes from India, including Alphonso.  We are definitely overdue some good growing weather.     

 

Wet Garlic    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands      As a result of the weather, now  at the beginning of   MAY , you will find the following at Puntarelle & Co:     Earthy, saline  Jersey Royal Potatoes  and versatile  Cypress Potatoes .  Vitamin C, iron and calcium-rich Spring  Nettle Tops , both English and French (bag with care!).  Some late English  Wild Garlic  leaves.   Watercress  from our preferred English grower, Kingfisher.   UK-grown sweet, juicy  Cucumbers  and mild, crunchy  Spring Onions .  Italian  Ridged Cucumbers    From Italy,  Romano  and  Tondo Courgettes .   Wispy  Wild Asparagus  and  Bruscandoli  (hop shoots) from Italy.  From our Kent Grower, English green  Asparagus , both fat-speared and thin sprue, tasting really delicious this year.  Also European purple and white  Asparagus  varieties.  New Spring season  Rainbow Chard  from Italy.    Italian  Peas    and  Broad Beans .  Fat, sweet, stems of  Wet Garlic  from France (don’t forget most of the stalk is useable too.   Outdoor-grown Rhubarb , picked up from our preferred farmer in Kent who also grows our Asparagus.   Strawberries  this week are from France and Italy.  We expect English ones in a couple of weeks’ time.  There are  French Heritage Tomatoes  along with large  Pineapple Tomatoes , and the salty, crunchy  Marinda  and  Camone   Tomatoes    that have seen us   through winter are still with us.  Spring varieties of  Radish .  Cool weather harvests of bitter  Radicchio  and  Chicories  like  Puntarelle  and  Cime de Rapa  from Italy are still with us and there are  Tropea Onions .   Spinach  varieties including French.  New season  Aubergines  from Italy are now coming in more variety of sizes and shapes.   Green and Purple Artichokes , large and small.     St George’s Mushrooms  again (one thing that wasn’t late this year) and  Morel Mushrooms  too.  As always, we have seasonal herbs but we have pots of growing  Spring Herbs  as well.  It’s a lean time for European fruits but the  Nespole  from Italy are in.   

Wet Garlic

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

 

As a result of the weather, now at the beginning of MAY, you will find the following at Puntarelle & Co:

 

Earthy, saline Jersey Royal Potatoes and versatile Cypress Potatoes.

Vitamin C, iron and calcium-rich Spring Nettle Tops, both English and French (bag with care!).

Some late English Wild Garlic leaves.

Watercress from our preferred English grower, Kingfisher. 

UK-grown sweet, juicy Cucumbers and mild, crunchy Spring Onions.

Italian Ridged Cucumbers 

From Italy, Romano and Tondo Courgettes

Wispy Wild Asparagus and Bruscandoli (hop shoots) from Italy.

From our Kent Grower, English green Asparagus, both fat-speared and thin sprue, tasting really delicious this year.  Also European purple and white Asparagus varieties.

New Spring season Rainbow Chard from Italy.  

Italian Peas and Broad Beans.

Fat, sweet, stems of Wet Garlic from France (don’t forget most of the stalk is useable too.

Outdoor-grown Rhubarb, picked up from our preferred farmer in Kent who also grows our Asparagus.

Strawberries this week are from France and Italy.  We expect English ones in a couple of weeks’ time.

There are French Heritage Tomatoes along with large Pineapple Tomatoes, and the salty, crunchy Marinda and Camone Tomatoes that have seen us through winter are still with us.

Spring varieties of Radish.

Cool weather harvests of bitter Radicchio and Chicories like Puntarelle and Cime de Rapa from Italy are still with us and there are Tropea Onions.

Spinach varieties including French.

New season Aubergines from Italy are now coming in more variety of sizes and shapes.

Green and Purple Artichokes, large and small.  

St George’s Mushrooms again (one thing that wasn’t late this year) and Morel Mushrooms too.

As always, we have seasonal herbs but we have pots of growing Spring Herbs as well.

It’s a lean time for European fruits but the Nespole from Italy are in.

 

Broad Beans    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands      So, what produce can we  expect  to come through our doors  in MAY ?     Earthy, saline  Jersey Royal Potatoes  and some  French new potatoes  too.   Vitamin C, iron and calcium-rich Spring  Nettle Tops , both English and French (bag with care!).   Watercress  from our preferred English grower, Kingfisher.   UK-grown sweet, juicy  Cucumbers  and mild, crunchy  Spring Onions  will continue.   Ridged Cucumbers  for preserving from Eastern Europe.  Increasing varieties of  Courgettes  from Italy.  Wispy  Wild Asparagus  from Italy.  From our Kent Grower, English green  Asparagus , both fat-speared and thin sprue.  Also European purple and white  Asparagus  varieties.   Rainbow Chard .    Italian  Peas    and  Broad Beans .  Fat, sweet, stems of  Wet Garlic  from France (don’t forget most of the stalk is useable too).   Outdoor-grown Rhubarb , picked up from our preferred farmer in Kent who also grows our Asparagus.   Strawberries  from France and Italy.  Early English ones from our favourite grower should be with us by the third week in May.   French Heritage Tomatoes , large  Pineapple Tomatoes  and, hopefully, some other interesting varieties.  Spring varieties of  Radish .  Italian  Tropea Onions  and French  Grelot Onions .   Spinach  varieties including French.  New season  Aubergines  from Italy in a variety of shapes and sizes.   Seasonal herbs including pots of growing  Spring Herbs .  It’s still a lean time for European fruits but expect  Nespole  from Italy throughout the month.   

Broad Beans

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

 

So, what produce can we expect to come through our doors in MAY?

 

Earthy, saline Jersey Royal Potatoes and some French new potatoes too. 

Vitamin C, iron and calcium-rich Spring Nettle Tops, both English and French (bag with care!).

Watercress from our preferred English grower, Kingfisher. 

UK-grown sweet, juicy Cucumbers and mild, crunchy Spring Onions will continue.

Ridged Cucumbers for preserving from Eastern Europe.

Increasing varieties of Courgettes from Italy.

Wispy Wild Asparagus from Italy.

From our Kent Grower, English green Asparagus, both fat-speared and thin sprue.  Also European purple and white Asparagus varieties.

Rainbow Chard.  

Italian Peas and Broad Beans.

Fat, sweet, stems of Wet Garlic from France (don’t forget most of the stalk is useable too).

Outdoor-grown Rhubarb, picked up from our preferred farmer in Kent who also grows our Asparagus.

Strawberries from France and Italy.  Early English ones from our favourite grower should be with us by the third week in May.

French Heritage Tomatoes, large Pineapple Tomatoes and, hopefully, some other interesting varieties.

Spring varieties of Radish.

Italian Tropea Onions and French Grelot Onions.

Spinach varieties including French.

New season Aubergines from Italy in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

Seasonal herbs including pots of growing Spring Herbs.

It’s still a lean time for European fruits but expect Nespole from Italy throughout the month.

 

Nespole/Loquats    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands       Focus on:       Nespole  have   arrived from Italy.  In early spring, just as our stores of apples are emptying and before strawberries come good, they are a welcome sight.  Looking a little like apricots, they can be smooth or slightly downy-skinned and vary from yellow to orange.  They have a succulent flesh, a little tart, a little sweet with a tropical fragrance.  They are a fragile fruit that keep only a couple of days at room temperature but up to a week in a cool place.  They can be poached in sugar syrup and simply served with yogurt or ice cream, or added to a fruit salad.  Under-ripe fruits make good jam and jelly, or chutney which goes well with fatty meats like roast pork.     

Nespole/Loquats

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

 

Focus on:

 

Nespole have arrived from Italy.  In early spring, just as our stores of apples are emptying and before strawberries come good, they are a welcome sight.  Looking a little like apricots, they can be smooth or slightly downy-skinned and vary from yellow to orange.  They have a succulent flesh, a little tart, a little sweet with a tropical fragrance.  They are a fragile fruit that keep only a couple of days at room temperature but up to a week in a cool place.  They can be poached in sugar syrup and simply served with yogurt or ice cream, or added to a fruit salad.  Under-ripe fruits make good jam and jelly, or chutney which goes well with fatty meats like roast pork.  

 

Raw Asparagus Salad    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands         We collected the first cut of English Asparagus from our Kent Grower last week and, despite a return to lacklustre weather, the English season is definitely under way.  Here is a recipe, inspired by our friends at 40 Maltby Street, celebrating the early spears which are delicious eaten raw.  It also makes a few spears go a long way.        Raw Asparagus Salad   (Serves 4 as a starter)   8-12 asparagus spears A handful of pea-shoots  A few mint leaves 1 tbsp lemon juice 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Salt & pepper  Snap the tough ends off the asparagus.  Cut a diagonal slice off the bottom of each spear then slice them thinly.  Add salt and pepper to the lemon juice and mix.  Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify.  Toss the sliced asparagus and the pea shoots in the dressing.  Pile onto plates and serve.  (Add a few curls or a grating of Italian Parmesan or English Berkswell cheese if you like).     

Raw Asparagus Salad

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

 

 

We collected the first cut of English Asparagus from our Kent Grower last week and, despite a return to lacklustre weather, the English season is definitely under way.  Here is a recipe, inspired by our friends at 40 Maltby Street, celebrating the early spears which are delicious eaten raw.  It also makes a few spears go a long way.  

 

Raw Asparagus Salad

(Serves 4 as a starter)


8-12 asparagus spears
A handful of pea-shoots

A few mint leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus.  Cut a diagonal slice off the bottom of each spear then slice them thinly.  Add salt and pepper to the lemon juice and mix.  Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify.  Toss the sliced asparagus and the pea shoots in the dressing.  Pile onto plates and serve.  (Add a few curls or a grating of Italian Parmesan or English Berkswell cheese if you like).