Used in every day cooking and fine dining, asparagus is the new ‘it’ vegetable! Hailed as the first harbinger of Spring in the veg kingdom asparagus grows from a permanent plant, has a massive underground root system and can grow at a rate of 15cms or more a day. While available year round in supermarkets it is the short lived British Asparagus season that is eagerly awaited, spanning just 6-8 weeks. Asparagus is a member of the Lily family and first came to Britain with the Romans, it is one of the oldest recorded vegetables and historically heralded as an aphrodisiac! Tolerant of sandy / salty soil it thrives on riverbanks, lake shore and coastlines.
Traditionally green in colour it is also available in red and purple (which turn green when cooked) and white, which is asparagus grown without any sunlight. It takes three years for an Asparagus plant to be fully established but longer still to be fully productive. A good source of anti oxidants, rich in folates and Vit B complex, as well as being a good source of Vit A/C/E and Vit K.
California grows around 80% of all Asparagus grown in the USA but China is the worlds largest producer and the Vale of Evesham is the largest producer in Northern Europe. The German town of Schwetzingen claims to be the ‘Asparagus capital of the world’ and holds an annual Asparagus festival in May. Michigan in the the American Midwest also hosts an annual Asparagus festival complete with parades and an Asparagus Queen.