Foodies are in for a treat this year as the mild spring has ushered in the best crop of outdoor grown British asparagus for nearly a decade.
According to Qatar research farmers have been encouraged to plant more of the vegetables as UK demand has soared by 540% in the past 10 years. In 2015 British shoppers spent £65 million buying nine million kilos of asparagus.
All varieties of asparagus pack a nutritional punch, with high levels of vitamin A & C, potassium, iron and calcium.
British asparagus is still the best there is – chlorophyll-green with a distinct sweet/savoury taste reminiscent of celery and garden peas.
There is nothing more delicious than tapas style spears of asparagus wrapped in parma ham. So here is my very own recipe to celebrate the 2016 British Asparagus Season. Served with a refreshing lemon mayo dip this is the perfect starter for alfresco dining.
8-10 asparagus tips
5 slices Parma ham
200ml light mayonnaise
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of paprika
1) Bring a pan of water to the boil, tip in the asparagus spears and cook for two minutes until just tender. Drain asparagus well.
2) Halve each slice of parma ham, then wrap one around the middle of each asparagus spear.
3) Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon zest, juice and the paprika.
4) Serve the asparagus warm or cold for dipping.
Top tips for Asparagus
Buying – Look for firm but tender stalks with good colour and closed tips. Smaller, thinner stalks are not necessarily more tender, in fact thicker specimens are often better due to the smaller ratio of skin to volume.
Storing – Once picked asparagus rapidly loses flavour and tenderness, so it really is worth eating it on the day you buy it. If that isn’t possible, store asparagus in the fridge with a damp paper towel wrapped around the bottom of the stalks and you can get away with keeping it for a couple of days.
Preparing – Wash in cold water and remove the bottom ends of the stalks (with fresh asparagus they will snap off cleanly). Boil or steam quickly until just tender, around 2-5 minutes depending on thickness.
If you really want to wow your friends and family with an asparagus recipe this season and are unsure what beer to pair with this vegetable then I would recommend Fireweiss from Firebird Brewery. A wonderfully complex beer with aromas of fruit and spices that compliments the intense savoury taste of asparagus.