Spear genius ... make the most of asparagus

As vegetables go, asparagus has to be one of the most beautiful. Firm green stalks that look like something a soldier from the Roman Empire would throw at his enemy, rather than munch on, these edible spears are something to be made the most of at this time of the year. While asparagus can be found in the shops pretty much all year round nowadays, it does tend to be flown in from far-flung places such as Africa and South America to the detriment of the flavour and texture of this stunning little vegetable. Once picked, asparagus should be eaten as soon as possible, which is why now is the time to search out some great Irish stock while it's in peak condition.
 
Applauded for being full of goodies such as antioxidants, fibre and vitamins A, C, and E, asparagus loves to sit next to, or on top of, a great variety of ingredients. It can never really get enough of butter and eggs (like myself!) - and when beautifully boiled and perched on hot buttered toast before being covered with a blanket of hollandaise sauce, it is simply one of the most divine things to eat on this earth. Add a poached egg to the mix, snuggled under the hollandaise blanket, and you have an eggs Benedict-type meal fit for a king, or indeed a queen.
 
The size and shape of the asparagus stalk also make it ideal for dipping (a la Kim Basinger in 9½ Weeks) into hot melted butter with a squeeze of lemon juice, or any butter sauce for that matter. If you're in more of a pragmatic mood, then you'll find that an asparagus cream soup is a delicious way to start a meal, as is an asparagus carpaccio - thin slivers of the raw spears drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, cracked black peppercorns and a crumbling of feta over the top.
 
If it's sunny today, I'll be barbecuing my asparagus - tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked all over until deep golden brown - almost black. Delicious.
 
Asparagus Recipes: 
 

Rachel's tip

Asparagus is best eaten within a day or two of buying it, and the stalks must be lovely and firm. To keep asparagus in tip-top condition after picking or buying, wrap it in wet kitchen paper, then place in a bag in the fridge.
 

Rachel recommends

Farmers' markets are, of course, a great place to pick up the most local of produce and for some great Irish asparagus (seeing as my own that I planted haven't been a roaring success), I'll be heading to both Midleton and Mahon Point farmers' markets.
 
I'll also be checking out our local SuperValu in Midleton, which stocks vegetables from Horizon Farm in Kinsale, where Colum and Liz O'Regan grow delicious salad leaves, stunning purple sprouting broccoli and many more vegetables to sell in peak condition, just out of the ground. Look out for the Horizon Farm label at a SuperValu near you.
 
 

Shaneod May 11, 2015 News