A is for Asparagus

Steve and I, well mostly I, have been orgiastically gorging ourselves on asparagus for the past 6 weeks.  We’ve stopped eating the year round stuff flown in from Peru, so it’s a special treat when English asparagus begins to appear in the shops and on menus.  Ironically, the first asparagus we had this year probably was from Peru, because we had it at a Peruvian Kitchen & Pisco Bar, Ceviche, that we stumbled upon in Soho in early May (and stumbled out from after a couple of rounds of Pisco cocktails).  You’ll hear more about Ceviche and Pisco later.  Today, it’s all about asparagus!

At Ceviche, we popped our 2013 asparagus cherry with grilled white and green asparagus with Huancaina sauce.

Asparagus a la Ceviche

Asparagus a la Ceviche

White asparagus is being grown and sold in British markets for the first time this year.  I haven’t seen any in Devon, but I’ll be sure to hunt some down in 2014.  To be honest with you, I couldn’t really taste the difference, but it may have been due to the sauce and the watercress baffling my taste buds.
BTW, Huancaina sauce is a spicy, cheesy cream.  Of course I had it with a glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to keep the coppers off my tail.

I had hoped to find an ‘A is for Asparagus’ alphabet  illustration for this post, like the Kate Greenaway illustrations, but this was the best I could find:

a-asparagus-

However, I found a veritable cornucopia of vintage crate labels online.  They are visually fabulous and as I am a California Girl they have a special place in my heart, since 80% of American asparagus is grown in the Golden State.

asparagus_ohyes

A ‘cash crop’ is a readily salable crop produced or gathered primarily for market.
asparagus_long

asparagus_coin

Back to the UK.  Our ‘local’ asparagus is mainly from Worcestershire, Herefordshire and my ‘home’ county of Devonshire.  Asparagus-wise, the Vale of Evesham is da’ bomb though.

These honeys are from The Real Food Store, a whole food market in Exeter.

asparagus3

We normally prepare and eat asparagus as simply as possible.  Break the tough parts of the stems off, steam for about 6-8 minutes and then finish them off in the grill for about 2 minutes, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  After removing from the grill, annoint with lemon juice and zest, if you have it.  Sometimes we have a side of Hellman’s mayo with some lemon juice stirred in.

Et voila!

Et voila!

Yep, English asparagus is the best in the world, but we don’t do cute labels like the Yanks do.

asparagus_chickie

asparagus_spring is here!

asparagus_kingfish

asparagus_springtime magic

We had a double food bonus when we chanced upon the Exeter Street Food Market and La Cantina Street Kitchen in particular.   Happily, ESFM is a weekly Fri – Sun occurrence.

asparagus5

Grilled local asparagus wrapped in Parma ham, finished with wild garlic oil

Grilled local asparagus wrapped in Parma ham, finished with wild garlic oil

Asparagus is an elegant vegetable.  It makes a fabulous accompaniment to the likes of chicken breast fillets in a lemon caper sauce

asparagus7

or grilled lamb chops with mint pesto and boiled new potatoes.

asparagus8

asparagus1

asparagus_talk

asparagus_creme

asparagus_ditto

asparagus_winter-green

At first, I couldn’t figure out the relevance of Holland and Dutch motifs in these labels.   Then I found, with a few clicks of the mouse, that the Holland Land Company was incorporated in 1916. Its operations headquarters were in Reclamation District 999, Clarksburg, California, Yolo County. During the 1920s, the Holland Land Co. owned more than fifty thousand acres in Solano and Yolo Counties. The company used equipment including clamshell dredges, ditchers, draglines, pumps, and tractors to build levees and canals and reclaim Delta marshland. The company built roads, bridges, and buildings on its land and planted a wide variety of crops. The Holland Land Co. was dissolved in 1942.

  asparagus_holland

   asparagus_riverlad

asparagus_rivermaid

I found these particularly striking and my eye is always caught by images of Native Americans, although they have nothing to do historically with asparagus.  But I won’t get started on cultural misappropriation since, it’s all about asparagus!

   asparagus_weaver

  asparagus_maggio

Finally, my most recent purchase.

asparagus10

I’ve separated the stalks out into slender, for tonight’s supper of Tagliatelle with Asparagus, Crispy Pancetta & Parmesan, and plumper for tomorrow night’s dinner party dish of Asparagus and Roquefort Tart.   Yes, we are going to sail out of asparagus season in fine style.

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