When the first spears of English asparagus appear, we can wave a joyful goodbye to the freezing weeks that marked the "hungry gap" (the low point of the British horticultural calendar) and celebrate springtime proper – that revivifying time of year when the first flush of the new season's vegetables come on stream. Sweet and juicy, British asparagus is streets ahead of the jet-lagged, bitter‑tasting Peruvian spears that sit on supermarket shelves year-round, and it will usually knock the spots off the cheaper Spanish crop, which too often arrives dehydrated from its road trip across Europe.
Asparagus deteriorates faster than most vegetables, so the speed it reaches your plate is paramount to maintaining the nutritional value and flavour. Look out for tight green tips and stalks that are moist and sappy within – asparagus with a woody, puckered, bendy stalk is past its prime.
Why is asparagus good for me?
Asparagus is an impressive source of the B-complex vitamins needed to produce energy and maintain the nervous system. They also regulate homocysteine levels in our blood – a strong risk factor for heart disease. Asparagus provides a useful amount of vitamin K – essential for strong bones. Some research suggests a deficiency of vitamin K may be a factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease.