Schwartz September 2019

Best of British

The British asparagus season is from April to June – although it traditionally begins on 1 May. The short season runs for just seven or eight weeks so make sure you stock up and add this healthy and delicious vegetable to your menu.

The home-grown ‘super food’ is packed with nutrients and bursting with taste – so it makes the versatile veg perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Health benefits
According to the National Restaurant Association, more than seven in 10 adults want to eat healthier meals when dining out. Asparagus is low in calories and fat, full of fibre and packed full of vitamins. It’s one of the best sources of folic acid in the vegetable world, is a fantastic anti-inflammatory food and helps aid digestion.

How it’s grown
We may grumble about our weather but our climate allows asparagus stems to develop slowly, producing a full, sweet flavour and a fine, tender texture quite unlike any other crop. The soil temperature must be at least 10°C before it can grow, so if it’s been a warm spring then asparagus spears are available in late April. Asparagus growers down south will harvest their crop first, cutting in mid-April, with the growers further north starting a few days later. After planting, it takes two years before asparagus is ready to crop with the plant then being productive for up to 20 years. The ideal conditions for a sweet British asparagus are partly exposed to sunshine, sandy soil and good drainage.

Time to cook
Asparagus is traditionally served steamed or lightly boiled, but it can be blanched, sautéd, stir-fried, barbecued or roasted so get inventive with your menus. You can’t go wrong with steaming – it is by far the quickest and easiest for a busy kitchen and will still deliver a flavoursome dish full of nutrients. Just place the asparagus spears in a steaming basket with an inch of water underneath, then cover and steam for three to five minutes.

Top tips:
1. Don’t overcook
2. Add dressing just before serving to avoid losing colour and texture
3. Don’t cook in iron pots – it will lose its colour and gain an off-putting iron taste
4. Mention on your menu that it’s British asparagus – customers love to know they are eating home-grown produce

Menu ideas

Breakfast
Scrambled eggs topped with asparagus spears tossed in butter
OR FOR THE KIDS
Lightly butter asparagus spears instead of soldiers to dip in runny, boiled eggs
Lunch
Asparagus, bacon and poached egg salad with a mustard dressing
OR
Asparagus soup
Dinner
Asparagus, tomato and mozzarella pizza
OR
Pan-fried fillet of beef with roasted asparagus and red pepper and horseradish hollandaise

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