IT’S an expression credited to the Roman Emperor Augustus, implying swiftness, he also created the ‘asparagus fleet’ to bring the vegetable to Rome swiftly. Clearly an asparagus aficionado.
Some claim asparagus is an aphrodisiac – others certainly claim that it has medicinal qualities.
The Greek physician Galen named it as a beneficial herb. His treatise on matters medical ruled European and Middle Eastern physicians for centuries certainly remaining influential into the modern age.
Clearly a popular vegetable for thousands of years today asparagus dominates the English foodie calendar from late April to midsummer.
English asparagus sells at a premium and has a short season and even though in these aviation times where cargos of the vegetable fly in daily from all over the world so that the green asparagus beloved in England is available year-round, still the English growing season and English produce dominates the year.
Wander through market stalls in country market towns or even London’s uber fashionable Camden Market in recent weeks and there will be seen the stiff pale green stalks of English asparagus.
Naturally, supermarket chains prominently advertise and display their participation in the annual foodie’s feast. Their house magazines and advertising allude to their and by implication your sophistication in appreciating the delicate flavour of the vegetable.
I will testify that age and maturity is no requirement to a love of the asparagus stalk. Many a sauce has been confected to accompany asparagus, though lightly grilled over charcoal and unaccompanied as I first discovered in Madrid is a delight.
My own asparagus addiction has its origins in my very early youth.
My parents would taste the early wine of the previous year’s vintage along the Rhine and share a plate of white asparagus with us.
Family legend has it that I was caught on more than one occasion attempting to open a tin of asparagus with the aid of a hammer and screwdriver. The tin opener having been placed well beyond my childhood reach on a nail placed high on the kitchen wall.
While I do really like white asparagus found on the continent from Germany to Spain it’s the English green asparagus that grasps me firmly and draws me close. As you would expect the English season opens on an auspicious day, April 23, which as everyone knows is St George’s Day, and closes on another Midsummer’s Day.