Sunday, 15 April 2012


One of the excitements of the April produce markets here is seeing the first asparagus and the first strawberries of the season. Usually you just admire the first week's offerings - they will be outrageously expensive - €9.50/kg for asparagus and €5 for a 250g punnet of strawberries this year.

Locally grown white sprue from the Preuilly market.
The asparagus here is always white, as that is what the locals prefer. It's like eating straw if it's old, but if you buy it freshly harvested (no more than 48 hours earlier) and locally grown, it is sweet and delicious, steamed or sautéed, and served with melted butter or hollandaise sauce. The ones pictured are the skinny cast offs, sold at the knockdown price of €3.50/kg even in the first week of April. They were purchased from a woman who sells nothing but asparagus and walnut oil.

Gariguette strawberries from Preuilly market.
The most prized strawberries are a very early bearing old French variety called Gariguette. They smell divine, wafting strawberry aroma from metres away on a cool April morning. I serve them cut in half, macerated at room temperature for an hour or so with a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of homemade cherry liqueur, topped with a dollop of vanilla icecream. The ones in the picture were purchased on Thursday (by then a more reasonable €3.50/250g punnet) and grown by our local orchardists based at Chambon.

Neither of these delicacies will be in the market for very long - eat them now or miss out until next year (although the Gariguettes will be succeeded by other varieties of strawberries - but I am assured it is just not quite the same).


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