Asparagus is a long term” investment” in the vegetable garden.
It’s a good three years before you can begin to harvest the crop.
That’s because the advice is to harvest very few spears at first so as not to over deplete the new plant’s resources.
When you first lay the one-year-old crowns in their trench ready to be covered by soil they look like a writhing nest of snakes or alien roots.
They lay dormant for half the year before pushing up through the ground as the weather and soil becomes warmer.
It reminds me of the Jason and the Argonauts – the rows of soldiers springing up from dragon’s teeth sowed in the ground.
The season lasts about six weeks to eight weeks and then you leave the spears to grow into feathery ferns that are up to six feet high (185 cm).
They need staking so they don’t collapse and are left until the winter when they are cut down and composted and the bed is weeded.
Last November Fynn, who was visiting from Germany, helped me empty the contents of a finished compost heap onto the bed – a good and necessary feed for the plants which are now four years old.
This first “cut” certainly tasted superb.
I cooked it with shallot, white wine, lemon zest and parsley.
And the obligatory hot vegetable stock.
I used vegan parmesan cheese – which was really good.
I was pleasantly surprised!
- 12 spears asparagus
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium sized shallot, finely chopped
- 300 g arborio rice
- 1 glass (125 ml) white wine
- 750 - 1000 ml boiling vegetable stock
- 1 lemon zested (and the juice of half the lemon)
- 1 large handful parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated vegan parmesan cheese
Remove the woody end of the asparagus. To do this find the "breaking point" of the asparagus by gently moving your way up from the bottom of the spear with your fingers until it snaps.
Keep the tender top parts and cook them in boiling water for a couple of minutes until al dente and not quite tender.
Then allow to cool, then chop into 3 cm pieces and set aside.
Heat olive oil in large saucepan on low to medium heat and add finely chopped shallot until softened but not coloured.
Add the rice and fry for a minute or two, stirring frequently, until coated in the oil. Do not allow to brown.
Add the white wine - it will sizzle as it hits the pan. Simmer and stir gently until evaporated and absorbed by the rice.
Add the hot vegetable stock a ladleful at a time, stirring between each addition to allow the liquid to be completely absorbed, until the rice is cooked and the stock has been absorbed (you may not need all the stock).
The heat will probably need to be on about medium now.
When done it should be al dente and ever so slightly "chalky" and will take about 15 minutes.
Add the asparagus, finely chopped parsley and minced lemon peel and the juice of half the lemon (make sure no white pith is on the zest when you remove it and before you chop it finely).
Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir well.
The risotto should be served on warm wide soup plates and should be neither too solid or too sloppy.
It should be creamy and have a slight wobble to it when you shake the plate.