Event: The First Asparagus of Spring

The original point of this blog – before the craziness that is coronavirus – was to discuss ‘event’ vegetables: low-yield, high maintenance veg that provided just one or two ‘events’ in the gardener’s life. High-flyers that made just one or two memorable meals that would remain in the imagination long after they had faded on the tongue.

A picture taken by my great friend Paul Lindus a good few years ago now. Alas this year there’s no one to take pictures. Boo to coronavirus

My asparagus is a trial. Talk about low-yield – this one’s often no-yield. You have to leave it three seasons before it starts cropping properly, but this stuff’s been in a good five years and I’m lucky if I get anything at all. It’s not helped by the annual invasion of asparagus beetles who seem to be able to sniff out their only food source from miles away.

Asparagus shoots are supposed to become stronger the more you harvest them. I have not found this.

But this lunchtime I did get a crop – enough for a single meal. It’s probably a good thing I can’t entertain at the moment, there was barely enough for one plate, but it was a joy: crisp, crunchy, green and fresh (though even a small amount fills the kitchen with ‘that’ smell…)

A meagre haul, but enough for lunch

I hope to have a couple more crops but it’s never going to be much cop. I suspect it’s the site but I’m blowed if I’m going to go through the agony of starting again. I’ll be too old to harvest it.

Asparagus with eggs and cheesy breadcrumbs.

I forget where I found this recipe – in a magazine, I believe; I didn’t keep it because it’s easily memorised – but it’s simple and since you can do it with any asparagus, I’ll relate it here…

You’ll need:

  • Asparagus – about five or six spears per head
  • Eggs – a couple per person
  • Breadcrumbs – I keep a bag of them in the freezer, which I add to when I have half a stale loaf leftover
  • Parmesan cheese, grated – about a dessertspoonful per person
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter for frying

Fry the breadcrumbs until they’re brown, then let them cool before adding the grated cheese. Set aside.

In a small saucepan boil the asparagus for a couple of minutes until slightly tender but so they still have crunch.

Fry the eggs in butter.

Arrange the asparagus on a plate, put the eggs on top, sprinkle with cheesy breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and enjoy.

If we’re unlucky enough to still be in lockdown in the autumn and you’re prepared to put years of work into one meal, I’ll happily go through it all with you in October. Meanwhile, I believe the shops are beginning to fill with fresh food again…

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