Proud to be British
£23.8 m was spent on asparagus in 2011, proving that Brits love the spear-shaped vegetable. And as asparagus aficionados will testify, young British asparagus is among the tastiest and most nutritious in the world…
- An asparagus spear can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period.
- There are less than four calories in each asparagus spear!
- Asparagus was first cultivated by the Ancient Greeks 2,500 years ago, and used as a medicine!
- The world’s leading exporter of asparagus is Peru.
- During the season we eat an average of 4.6 million spears each day as a nation.
- The ‘proper’ way to eat asparagus is with your fingers – even the Queen would eat it this way.
- The majority of British asparagus is harvested by hand.
- Asparagus grows from ‘crowns’ planted in the ground. It takes each crown three years to produce harvestable asparagus, but after that the same crown will keep producing asparagus for years. An asparagus crown has an active life of around 15 years. However, the oldest plant recorded reached a staggering 120 years!
- Asparagus needs harvesting every day because if you don’t cut the spears they turn to fern and become a plant!
- There is no large scale exporting of British asparagus as the domestic demand is so high it often outweighs the supply.
- Asparagus is an aphrodisiac.
Dean Edwards’ Baked British Asparagus, Pancetta and Black Pudding Salad
Baked British asparagus teamed up with the smoky flavours of pancetta and black pudding; add into the mix a perfect poached egg with a runny yolk, what more could you ask for?
Cooking time: 20 minutes Preparation time: 10 minutes Serves: 4
- 100g smoked pancetta
- 4 pieces black pudding, sliced 1-2cm thick
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 4 medium, organic, free-range eggs
- Mixed salad leaves
- 2 bundles British asparagus
- Oil for frying
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1 tbsp sherry or balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1⁄2 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- In a little oil fry the smoked pancetta until golden then remove from the pan and drain on some kitchen paper. In the same oil fry the black pudding for 7-8 minutes turning once.
- Place the asparagus on a tray, drizzle with olive oil and bake in an pre- heated oven to 200°C / 180°C fan for 6-8 minutes turning once. Meanwhile, in a deep pan bring some water up to a rolling boil, add the white wine vinegar and crack in the eggs. Turnoff the heat and leave to cook for 6-7 minutes for a runny yolk, remove from the water and drain any excess water on some kitchen paper.
- Whisk up the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and honey and season with a small pinch of salt and a grind of pepper.
- Place a small handful of salad leaves on a plate along with the asparagus and the black pudding, top with the poached egg, scatter over the pancetta then drizzle over the dressing.
Valentine Warner’s British Asparagus Cigars
This is a great little snack for parties, so simple, a winning little time saver. Double or triple the recipe as they disappear quickly.
Cooking time: 20 minutes Preparation time: 15 minutes Serves: 16 sharing
- 2 bundles of British asparagus
- 4 sheets of ready- made filo pastry
- 50g butter melted
- 2 handfuls of finely grated Parmesan
- Black pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 190°C
- Cook the asparagus in well salted water, cooking it for only 1–2 minutes once it has come back to the boil.
- Drain and cool the asparagus in cold water then drain again, making sure it’s thoroughly dry with a tea towel.
- Cut the asparagus 2⁄3 of the way down, either discarding the lower stem or saving it for a soup, such as pea and Asparagus and sorrel.
- Take one sheet of filo pastry and brush it lightly but thoroughly all over with butter. Cut each piece into four. Place each asparagus spear along the bottom of your filo piece and roll snugly but not over tightly.
- Picking it up with your fingers brush the outside with butter again, then scatter the grated Parmesan thoroughly over the top of each cigar.
- Lay them down on a tray lined with greaseproof paper with the outside edge of the filo facing down on the paper, this stops them unravelling when they cook.
- Once done grind over with a heavy bombardment of black pepper. Place in the oven for 15-18 minutes until deep golden and crispy.
Dean Edwards’ British Asparagus Tortilla
A twist on a classic Spanish dish, a really speedy dish ideal for a quick family dinner.
Cooking time: 15 minutes Preparation time: 10 minutes Serves: 4
- 1 bundle British asparagus
- 1 courgette, thinly sliced
- 15g unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 200g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 6 medium eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
- Plunge the asparagus into boiling salted water, bring back to the boil then cook for 2-3 minutes, drain then plunge into ice water.
- In a non-stick pan fry the sliced courgettes in the butter then add the garlic and cook over a medium heat for around 6-7 minutes until almost sticky.
- Parboil the potatoes and cut into cubes, then add the potatoes and the onion to the pan and cook until softened.
- Place the asparagus into the pan then add the seasoned beaten eggs. When the eggs have just set around the edges, transfer to a pre heated oven set at 200°C for around 6-8 minutes.
- When cooked turn out onto a plate.
- Cut the tortilla into slices then serve with some dressed salad leaves.