Monday, 13 April 2020

Wild Foraged Asparagus

This year there is no chance of wild foraged asparagus as we are in lockdown. I never dreamt when I wrote this post last year to schedule for the new asparagus season in 2020 that we would be in this situation.


Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Everyone looks forward to the new season asparagus appearing at the markets in France. The beginning of the asparagus season can vary by about a month. Sometimes it is available from the beginning of April, but sometimes you have to wait until May. Then it has all finished by the end of June.

In the Loire Valley the asparagus you get at the market is mostly white, and mostly grown in the Sologne or around Richelieu, where the soil is sandy. If like me you prefer the green you quickly learn which producers will sell a bit of green in addition to their white, or you go foraging for naturalised asparagus in the fields. It pops up all over the place, and so long as you pick it at just the right moment, is delicious. It is not wild asparagus -- that is a different plant, very rare, not worth eating and only occurring near the sea. This is naturalised garden asparagus, germinated from seeds left by birds (asparagus has red berries very popular with many species of birds).

Friends of mine, who live north of the Loire, tell me that there is an abandoned asparagus field near them that they go and harvest every year. Last year they got 5 kilos of free asparagus from one visit.

Photograph Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

Cook your foraged asparagus the same day as you pick it, or the day after. It comes in all lengths and thicknesses, so wash and cut into even sized pieces as necessary, either across into lengths that fit in the steamer, or down the length so that all the pieces need the same cooking time. Steam for about 8 minutes. Once plated, season with sea salt crystals, freshly ground mixed peppercorns, a few crispy lardons, a squeeze of lemon juice and some grated parmesan cheese. Place a poached egg on top. Obviously, you can substitute cultivated fresh green asparagus, homegrown or bought at your local greengrocers.

Cooked and photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.



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Ken Broadhurst said...

Is the market in Preuilly operating these days? Saint-Aignan's is not. We've been wondering if we will miss out on the whole asparagus season. We both love the local white asparagus. It's sweeter-tasting than green, but the white spears do have to be peeled before cooking.

Susan said...

The market in Preuilly is operating, Thursdays and Saturdays. Our Thursday market was one of the first to get a derogation. Now Indre et Loire is allowing markets either with the derogation or if there are only 5 stalls or less. I only go on Thursdays, for veg and chicken, these days.

Sheila said...

I remember your writing several years ago about buying green asparagus from a farmer who was growing it in an 'abandoned' barnyard in which the soil had been enriched by the manure of various farm animals over the years. Sounded like such a good idea.

Susan said...

I don't remember that. Are you sure it was me?

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