Monday, 19 April 2010

The first asparagus of the season

Asparagus. When you see the first English asparagus, you know that nobody can turn the clock back – winter really is behind us.

I saw the first English asparagus of the season in Waitrose on Friday.

I ate my first English asparagus of the season yesterday. It was gorgeous – and what better an argument for seasonality than the delight of tasting something again for the first time in almost a year?

There are plenty of reasons to eat seasonally – and this is just one: the mass production of food for the developed world by the developing world is costing the latter its water resources.

And it's not just food, but also flowers, as in Kenya, where that industry is feeling the effects of the flight ban due to Icelandic volcanic ash particularly badly.

There is, quite simply, no need for asparagus all year round, imported from Peru. Or flowers – and fine (French) beans – from Kenya all year round.

But it gets dafter yet, with the things that we ourselves can grow – all year round: parsley and watercress, for instance, frequently imported from Israel and the US respectively.

I happened to spot an interesting point in Jamie Oliver's Italy while reading some of it earlier: he believes that one of the reasons that Italians are so healthy (they have, if memory serves, one of the best rates of longevity in the world) is that many of them they do not have the sort of food choices that some of the rest of us do.

Last year, on our last day of our holiday in Collioure, the elderly lady who looked after the house for its owner between paying guests, arrived to run a practised eye over everything before we departed. She'd told us on our arrival that we didn't need to worry about emptying the fridge: she would take anything left and give it to The Poor. Which seemed eminently sensible.

And so there she was, looking in the fridge to see what was left. And not being remotely impressed at seeing strawberries there. "They're out of season," she said, in a voice that made it quite clear that this was not good. "Spanish."

She had more than a point.

I shall binge on asparagus now for the six to eight weeks that British asparagus is available. This year, I'm going to try to be more inventive than ever in the ways I use it.

And then I shall, with a sigh, wave it goodbye until next year. The same will go for strawberries and fresh garden peas and broad beans.

The alternative is insanity – and the taste isn't even as good when something has been airfreighted half way around the globe. How could it be?


  1. My idea of insanity is shopping on the island of Kauai where those yummy little apple bananas (they're about half the size of what we see in our markets here - which makes them perfectly perfect in size) grow wild on banana trees outside practically everybody's front door, and seeing people buying the big yellow commercially grown bananas that have been imported from - get this - Bolivia!

    It was all I could do not to go and grab them out of the shopper's hands.

  2. I love roasted or grilled asparagus (brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper). Watch out for your first piss after eating it though. Hold your nose! :-D