In Season: Asparagus
British asparagus season is a national event in the world of restaurants. For a short period of time each year, chefs around the UK can source arguably the best asparagus spears available from right here on British soil.
The buzz it creates is astounding, but it’s well and truly deserved. The quality is sublime and its limited availability only adds to the hype.
As always, the start and end of the season shifts from year-to-year depending on weather conditions. But traditionally, the British asparagus season runs from St George’s day on the 23rd April through to Summer Solstice on the 21st June.
That’s just 8 and a half weeks to make the most of this fantastic crop. And in some years that window of opportunity can be even shorter.
Over and above supporting our fantastic asparagus growers around the country, the main reason why chefs go crazy for UK asparagus every year is due to how phenomenal the flavour is when it’s fresh.
All fruit and veg is at its very best when freshly picked, but asparagus spears in particular are known to decline in quality at a faster rate. So shipping it in from abroad after it was picked a week ago doesn’t make for the best quality product.
Serving British asparagus after it’s only been picked a day or two ago, however, is another story. As most chefs will know, it requires little fancifying and boasts incredible flavour that demands the attention of the diner.
Now in Season – Mussels
Mussels are fantastic right now. Breathe in the tantalizing sea-fresh steam. Savour it. And then get to the task at hand; extracting succulent offerings from gaping shells and soaking up the fragrant broth with pieces of crusty-soft bread for a complete sensory food experience.
March is a bit of an intermittent month. Everyone is waiting for the full bounty of produce that arrives with spring, but it’s still early enough in the year to feel the heels of winter in the air. However, the past few months have been much milder than usual, which has resulted in a few spring favourites cropping up earlier than previous years.
One of these ingredients is wild garlic (or ramsons), which is now growing in woodlands all over the UK – you should be able to smell the flowers if you’re near some.
The first stalks of asparagus are beginning to appear in places like the Wye Valley, but it’s best to wait a few more weeks until they really start to taste their best. In the meantime, stock up on the last of this year’s purple sprouting broccoli, one of the only British-grown greens you can find in the supermarket at the moment.
British-grown chicory is a good choice at this time of year. It’s cultivated in the same way as forced rhubarb – grown in the dark over three weeks – and adds a welcome burst of bitter freshness to seasonal dishes.