© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd


© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

June 2011

September 2011

Season-stretching asparagus

Wye Valley Asparagus Spears — in September
Available at a few Marks and Spencer outlets in London

The Times reported recently on John Chinn's efforts to extend the British asparagus season by taking on the Peruvians at their own game. The [London] Times reported too, but because of its paywall, we refer you more locally to the Hereford Times. Their Dorian-Grey asparagus (my appellation) is in a few Marks and Spencer shops, and we hit lucky at the Green Park station site. With teeth gritted, we went into Sainsbury's round the corner and actually bought some of their Peruvian asparagus (for scientific purposes only, you understand).

We compared the two on a simple, and for us typical, presentation: asparagus lightly roasted and served alongside charcuterie. Of course, we had no main-season British asparagus other than by memory.

Firstly, the spears from the Wye Valley polytunnels are a bit perkier than their Peruvian counterparts before cooking: I assume that the lesser travel is a major contributory factor. But what about the other end of the process, the eating?

Well, the Peruvian is still pretty dull, even compared to the receding memory of fresh in-season Britisj. When put up alongside the extended-season Wye Valley spears, it's still dull. No need to change our decision not to buy Peruvian, then. It's like finding one short sound-bite to play from one of the candidate recordings on Building a Library and consigning it to the No pile as a first-round loser.

The Wye Valley Dorian Grey (I'd call it WVDG, only it sounds like some obscure American radio station: in fact, the main Google hit is for a Dutch metal recycler) is worth considering, but it is nothing like fresh in-season local asparagus. We reckoned that it was about a third of the way from the Peruvian to local in-season, and we concluded that it could serve as an ingredient (in soup, risotto or quiche, for example), but for the main event (with hollandaise, as soldiers with a boiled egg, or enrobed in ham with a spot of horseradish, for instance), it doesn't quite cut the mustard (hollandaise, etc.).

But then, there are so many real seasonal alternatives for soup, risotto or quiche throughout the year that I'm not sure we'd bother going back to Green Park, or playing M&S bingo to find one of the other nine shops.