Eat the Season: Asparagus

By George McIvor, chairman of The Master Chefs of Great Britain

St George’s Day (April 23) heralds the start of asparagus season – it lasts just three months – and ends on Midsummer’s Day (June 21). British asparagus is hailed by leading chefs as the best in the world. While we might all grumble about the British weather, the UK climate allows asparagus stems to develop slowly producing a full, sweet flavour and a fine, tender texture quite unlike any other crop.

Official tasting notes

By New Covent Garden Market, the UK’s leading wholesale fruit and vegetable market www.newcoventgardenmarket.com

Flavour and aesthetics: Asparagus is commercially available in a number of varieties ranging from light green, dark green, purple tipped or white, although most British asparagus is green. It is graded by thickness of the spears. Wild asparagus has thinner and longer shoots than the cultivated variety, but otherwise it is very much similar to its commercially grown cousin – albeit with a slightly more delicate taste. Some people prefer the thinner stalks but these are not necessarily more tender; in fact, thicker stems can be better due to the smaller ratio of skin to volume.

Notes: Refrigerate wild asparagus as soon as possible to prevent the spears from becoming stringy. It can also be blanched and frozen to preserve it.

1. Pizza with asparagus? Now there’s an idea… British asparagus, tarragon and almond pizza bianco is a terrific topping.

2. Spear some salmon Asparagus is a beautiful addition to a warm timbale of smoked and fresh salmon, served with seared scallop and cullen skink.

3. Beef it up This pan-seared Scottish beef with capers and red pepper, cucumber, celeriac crust with a red wine and balsamic glaze is finished with asparagus for a decadent dish.

4. An egg-sellent idea Serve poached Hampshire asparagus with chopped pheasant egg, fine herb and bee pollen for a delicious starter.

5. Super salad This British asparagus, spinach and avocado salad topped with crunchy spiced oats is packed full to the brim of goodness and the spiced oaty sprinkles add a welcome kick of flavour and crunch.

All of the recipes are taken from The Master Chefs of Great Britain magazine – masterchefs – or reproduced with the permission of British Asparagus. Full recipes are available online at www.stiritupmagazine.co.uk/recipes.

The Master Chefs of Great Britain was formed in 1980 to provide a forum for the exchange of culinary ideas and to further the profession through training and the guidance of young chefs. In addition, the association seeks to promote all that is best about British cuisine and produce. For more information on the association and the competitions and training opportunities they provide contact masterchefs@msn.com.

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