It’s a special Asparagus season this year because it’s the first for the Vale of Evesham under its new protected status. It now enjoys an elite group from potatoes to Champagne which is great news for the growers. Green asparagus, grown within the defined geographical area of the Vale, produced between the months of April and July can legitimately carry the PDO label. The point is that this status helps combat imitators and increases competition throughout Europe. Good news too, post-Brexit, for those protected food products should be able to keep their PDO if Britain ensures there’s reciprocity with European growers.
The Vale has been growing asparagus since at least 1768, and the annual Asparagus Festival attracts lovers of the vegetable from all around the world. Saint George’s Day marks the start of the Asparagus season, ending in June.
Traditionally matched with a good Hollandaise Sauce, there’s nothing quite like freshly picked Asparagus direct from the source.
If you can’t make it to Evesham, keep an eye out for it in the shops.
To buy Asparagus at its best, look for firm and tender stalks with good colour and closed tips. In my experience, the thicker the asparagus, the better the taste. Once picked it starts to deteriorate so if you can eat on the day you buy it. A good way to store is in a damp kitchen towel. Before you eat it, you’ll need to snap off the woody base. They break exactly where the delicate stalk ends, and the woody part begins. Wash in cold water. Boil or Steam (the latter being my preference) until al dente. You can buy an asparagus steamer which cooks the spears from the bottom, allowing the delicate tips to remain so.
Here’s the only Hollandaise Recipe you’ll need.
Hollandaise Recipe (adapted from Julia Childs recipe)
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
225g, melted unsalted butter
A little cayenne pepper
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Add egg yolks the water and lemon juice to a bowl and blend. Melt the butter in a microwave then add slowly with a stick blender or whisk. Add salt and cayenne.
Tip the sauce over the lightly steamed Asparagus.