The Asparagus season is here!
PUBLISHED: 11:31 26 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:06 20 February 2013
Candia McKormack rejoices in all that's good about 'sparrow gras' and gets ready to join in the merriment at this year's festival.
Low in calories. A good source of vitamins A, B6, C, and E, among others. Contains no cholesterol. High in calcium, magnesium and zinc. Believed by many to be an aphrodisiac and it tastes almost unnaturally delicious lightly steamed and smothered in melted butter.
Asparagus. The food of the gods, surely. And we are fortunate enough to live in a part of Britain where it grows rather well.
The Vale of Evesham is synonymous with a healthy crop of the green stuff. For a few short weeks in the year, from the end of April until, traditionally, midsummer, the fertile land offers up an abundance of the crop. Although the Vale is the perfect environment for crops throughout the rest of the year, such as plums, apples, leeks, Brussels sprouts and cabbages, it is the divine spear that is perhaps most eagerly awaited.
From the end of April until the end of May, the market town of Evesham comes alive with what is possibly one of our most loved and quirky festivals. Although a young festival (the first was held in 2006), the idea of celebrating this Cotswold super food seems to capture the imagination of locals and visitors alike. Attractions include Gus the asparagus man; the famous auction at National Trust-owned Fleece Inn, Bretforton; the Great English Asparagus Run; and even an Asparamancer who predicts the future by tossing asparagus spears on the ground. Yes, really.
Asparagus was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who appreciated not only its culinary properties, but also its medicinal ones. Its strong diuretic qualities were valued, as was its ability to help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. Falling into relative obscurity during medieval times, asparagus was rediscovered in the 18th century by Louis XIV, who reinstated its rightful position in the hearts and stomachs of men the world over.
Today, asparagus is truly appreciated by foodie types, who recognise its intense, complex flavours and versatility in the kitchen and, right here in the heart of the Cotswolds, is where the best asparagus in the world grows. Probably.
For further information contact Angela Tidmarsh, Tourism Officer at Wychavon District Council, on 01386 565373 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Fleece Inn, Bretforton, tel: 01386 831173, www.thefleeceinn.co.uk
British Asparagus Festival
The asparagus festival first started in 2006 after British asparagus growers began to attract a lot of media attention. Over these few years, it has grown to be the wonderfully lively and quirky event youll see today.
May 13, 20, 27 and June 3: Asparabus Tours
The Vale of Evesham asparabus tour runs every year in celebration of the asparagus festival, giving you an insight into the vegetable as well as receiving an Asparaguide to highlight your visit.
May 30: Bretforton Silver Band Asparagus Auction
This event, held at The Fleece Inn, Bretforton, celebrates some of the best gras in the world, and gives ample opportunity to meet the Vales own asparagus man.
This is the main asparagus festival day, and its a great day out for the family. Local celebrity Henry Sandon will be bringing his Asparagus Roadshow. There will also be a farmers market, local arts and crafts, childrens activities and local ales, ciders and wines.
British asparagus, pea & goats cheese souffls
Serves 6; Preparation: 20-25 minutes; Cook: 30 minutes
30g walnuts, lightly crushed
300g British asparagus
200g fresh British peas (shelled weight)
200ml whole milk
100g goats cheese
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C / gas 6.
Melt the of the butter and use it to brush the inside of 6 ramekin dishes. Sprinkle the walnuts into the dishes and tap around the edge so they stick to the butter. Arrange on a baking sheet and set aside.
Cut the asparagus into 1cm pieces, leaving the tips a little longer. Cook with the peas in plenty of boiling salted water until tender. Drain and, reserving the asparagus tips, puree the stems and peas to a coarse paste using a hand blender or food processor. Set aside.
Melt the rest of the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the flour to make a roux and cook for a minute before whisking in the milk. Cook the sauce for a few minutes until thickened and remove from the heat.
Chop the goats cheese into cubes and stir through the sauce along with the pureed asparagus and peas. Season generously.
Separate the eggs carefully, tipping the yolks into the asparagus sauce and the whites into a really clean metal bowl. Stir the yolks through the sauce to mix well.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fluffy. Dont over whisk as they will be too dry to fold through the asparagus sauce.
Take a large spoon of the egg white and stir it vigorously in the sauce, then pour the sauce into the bowl of eggs whites. Using a large metal spoon fold the sauce very, very gently through the egg whites.
Spoon the mixture very gently into the prepared ramekins, push the reserved tips gently into the top of the mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Try to resist opening the oven door whilst they are cooking as they will collapse.
Serve immediately with a simple green salad.