After this long cold winter the season may be kicking off a little late this year but May for me means English asparagus. Here in the Weald we have great conditions for growing this sumptuous vegetable, so much so that this year I am finding room in my own veg garden to plant a couple of short rows.
I won't be able to pick my own asparagus for a year or two yet but luckily local farmers' markets and farm shops are the ideal place to buy fresh just-cut asparagus. Michael Bourne of Groombridge Farm Shop will be picking his early asparagus for the Asparagus Festival taking place at Penshurst Farmers' Market on 1 May so I will get my first fix there but this season should really kick off in mid to late May and run until the end of June, so keep visiting your own markets and pick-your-own farms.
The secret with asparagus is to cook and eat it as soon as possible after picking so don't put it in the veg drawer of the fridge and forget about it for a few days. And when it comes to cooking the stuff I think the simpler the better to really appreciate the flavour. Premium spears need very little fuss and perfect partners are eggs, butter and cheese, particularly strong salty types such as Parmesan.
At the beginning of the season I enjoy my asparagus like soldiers simply dipped into lightly boiled eggs. Then I move on to hollandaise sauce or melted butter, before running through scrambled eggs with chives and grated Parmesan stirred in, a simple asparagus omelette, luxurious risotto or one of the recipes shown here. The short eight-week season doesn't leave time to get bored and by next year I may even be cutting a spear or two of my own.