May is National Asparagus Month, and we’re celebrating this most seasonal and British of vegetables. The season runs from April until June, but the middle to end of May is when this tasty vegetable is really at its peak, and you can find it everywhere from farmers’ markets to menus.
Despite its exotic appearance, asparagus is surprising easy to grow in a sunny, sheltered spot in your garden, and growing your own means you won’t miss the short harvesting season.
- Although you can grow asparagus from seed, it’s much more efficient to plant young plants known as crowns in around March. Crowns are available from garden centres, or can be bought online. Plant them in a 30cm wide, 20cm deep trench half filled with well rotted manure. To give the plants time to establish, they shouldn’t be harvested for the first two years but in the third year you can harvest from April.
- Asparagus has shallow roots, so weed carefully by hand rather than with a spade or hoe. Keep the bed well mulched, and cut down any flowering spears in the winter.
- Harvest spears with a sharp knife, 2.5cm (1in) below the soil.
The taste of asparagus is so light and subtle it’s best cooked as simply as possible, as in this summery asparagus salad.
Asparagus and feta salad (serves 4)
8 tablespoons olive oil
16 asparagus spears
- cherry tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- salad leaves
- balsamic vinegar
- 8 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- Heat the grill to a hot setting. Lay the asparagus on a baking tray, and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of vinegar. Season. Grill for around 8 to 10 minutes until soft.
- Heap salad leaves into the middle of four plates. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and scatter over leaves. Place four asparagus spears on top.
- Mix the remaining oil, vinegar and mustard together, and spoon over the leaves. Sprinkle with feta cheese, top with chives and serve.
For more recipe ideas and information about asparagus, please visit www.british-asparagus.co.uk.