Flavour of the month: Asparagus
There’s no other vegetable that signifies spring like asparagus. The fleshy root system of the plant lies dormant during winter, and as the weather warms up the asparagus crown reawakens and sends up spears, growing at up to two centimetres per hour.
More than 95 percent of Australia’s asparagus is grown in Victoria. The main growing areas are Koo Wee Rup and Dalmore (65km south-east of Melbourne) and the Sunraysia region including Mildura (542km northwest of Melbourne). Australian asparagus is available in spring and summer with most produced in spring.
Green asparagus is by far the most popular variety in Australia and is available as thick, medium or mini spears. A very limited amount of purple asparagus is available from mid-October to mid-December. White asparagus is not currently produced in large-scale commercial quantities due to the high costs of production and limited demand.
Asparagus pairs especially well with:
- Olive oil
Asparagus is quick and easy to prepare. Simply remove any woody ends by running a knife along the stalk until it meets less resistance, and cutting the ends off at this point. Asparagus is loved for its fresh herbaceous flavour and also for its versatility. It’s delicious in soups, salads, frittatas, tarts, risotto, pasta, pizzas, burgers, fritters, wraps, toasted sandwiches, dips, pesto and much more. It also suits most cooking methods including blanching, microwaving, steaming, roasting and stir-frying.
Try it in:
- Breakfast dishes with, haloumi, soft poached eggs and hazelnut dukkah
- Asparagus and smoked salmon rolls with horseradish cream
- Asparagus, rockling and cannellini bean soup
- Fragrant asparagus, chicken and prawn laksa
- Chargrilled asparagus and chicken with barley risotto
- Asparagus and beef red curry stir-fry
- BBQ asparagus nicoise salad
- Asparagus and prawn rice paper rolls
Maintenance of the cool chain is vital to prevent continued growth of the spears and deterioration in quality and storage life. Once received, good temperature management of between 0°C and 2°C must be maintained. Store asparagus in the original boxes and remember that asparagus behaves somewhat like cut flowers so keep up the humidity.
If necessary, cover boxes with clean damp tea towels. Avoid storing near the airflow in your cooler.
LOOK OUT FOR
When selecting asparagus look for firm, bright smooth spears of uniform size with closed, compact tips. When you snap freshly harvested asparagus, it should be crisp, moist and juicy.