Asparagus is a truly seasonal treat and this year we got the opportunity to feast on asparagus when my friend Kate called by with a bag of spears from Ardross farm. As it was so fresh it needed nothing more than cooking quickly in a pan of salted boiling water.
My only addition was to serve it with a herb and garlic butter.
You could say mint is asparagus’s bestie from the herb garden. Making a herb butter is so easy. I simply added a finely chopped sprig of mint to softened butter and a chopped and squashed clove of garlic. I used about 100 grams of butter so that I would have a reserve for the next meal of asparagus.
Asparagus has been available from other areas of New Zealand in the shops for a while now but I have held out until the local Palmerston asparagus became available as I wanted my first taste to be as fresh as possible. Well I was spoilt last asparagus season when I sampled some asparagus spears from our Auckland Sanctuary Community garden. I had heard that in the time it takes to walk from the garden to the kitchen the flavour of asparagus changes. I cut and ate a raw spear and it was a completely different vegetable with an almost pea like flavour.
My friend Lea who has limited vegetable garden space decided to grow asparagus in a devoted raised bed. She chose this aristocratic vegetable over others because it delivers both intrigue and unbeatable flavour when grown organically in a home garden. The hard work has been done building up a good rich soil and patiently waiting a couple of years before harvesting. Now she is reaping the benefits of asparagus popping up regularly over the season. We too were rewarded as her dinner guests when she prepared the asparagus in another simple and delicious way. Lea sauteed her freshly harvested asparagus in olive oil, with garlic and finished it off with a squeeze of lemon juice.
When I was studying organic horticulture I was shocked to find out that asparagus is one of the most frequently sprayed vegetables when commercially grown. If you are lucky enough to live near Napier you can buy organically grown asparagus from JJ Organics at Onekawa. Judy and Jane also sell their organic produce at the Napier Urban Food Market in the city centre every Saturday morning.
Lea is thrilled with her special plot of asparagus and puts down her success to the seaweed she has added to the bed. Asparagus is naturally a coastal plant so seaweed is the best fertiliser with it’s rich supply of vitamins, amino acids and trace elements.
I have been encouraged from what I have seen and tasted at the community garden and closer to home in Lea’s garden … so much so that next year I plan to plant a permanent asparagus plot myself in my own raised bed under construction called a Hugelkultur.
Asparagus is a seasonal vegetable so my son Gus, who has the preserving label Augustines of Central, has been busy this season pickling local Palmerston asparagus in organic apple cider vinegar with Central Otago wild thyme and fennel seeds. Gus wants to offer asparagus that can be enjoyed out of season in a different form and perfect for an antipasto platter. Watch out for this product next year and a progress report on my asparagus plot at Portobello.