Our founder Jennifer Irvine has been passionate about home grown produce ever since childhood and it’s this very passion and ethos that has been inspiration behind a lot of our dishes; both seasonally and annually. Asparagus, known to be one of nature’s symbols of spring is in full season and to celebrate Jennifer shares her tips, wisdom and experience for growing your own right at home and maximising its freshness and flavour.
”There are few things which bring such green-fingered satisfaction than growing and harvesting your own asparagus. You can plant it in April, and, after a long but worthwhile wait, it will shoot its patterned spears through the earth the following Spring. But, like all good friendships, it’s worth investing the time in the beginning – treat your asparagus right and the same plant could give you over 25 years of edible bounty.
You’ll need to buy them as crowns, but don’t let the name mislead you – these crowns are more alien than royal. Wait and watch as these tangled tentacles grow into beautiful and majestic shoots after their incubation in the soil. I’m always amazed how speedily they emerge from the ground during harvest time. You’ll cut some for lunch one day, and before you know it, new spears, green and resplendent, will poke through a couple of days later.
The difference in taste between home grown and supermarket asparagus, to me, is striking. One of my favourite ways to enjoy them is with their best-friend – the humble egg. I’ll often swing by the chicken coop to collect fresh eggs on my way to the asparagus beds. Then it’s straight to the kitchen for a quick and delicious snack – simply poach the asparagus and eggs together in the same pan, dip the spears into the oozing yolk and enjoy.
How to grow:
Preparation: Choose your varieties based on what you like to eat – I grow both green and purple. Like most planting, a clear weed-free bed is important (so they are not competing for nutrients or water). Asparagus work well in well-drained soil, so I grow my ones in raised beds.Make sure you choose your spot carefully as you can be harvesting from this spot for decades to come. I have my asparagus bed tucked away at the back of my garden which adds a tranquil element to the ritual of picking them each spring.
April is the perfect time to plant the crowns. Simply dig a shallow hole for each crown that is about 6 inches deep and aim to plant them 2 feet apart. Make sure you put them in the ground the right way up so the shoots point up. Then cover with soil.
Patience is needed here – don’t be tempted to harvest them in the first year. I like to wait a couple of years so that they are really established.
Wait for the asparagus to poke up the length you want to eat it at and then simply cut it at the soil line. I use a regular kitchen knife – no fancy tools required. Now you can keep harvesting every couple of days. They are very forgiving and will keep sending up new spears for a few weeks with some varieties lasting as long as two months.
How to use:
I like to celebrate this royal crop by simply steaming or poaching them. It takes just minutes, so I usually put them on to cook when the rest of the meal is ready, and the family are sitting at the table hungry and eager! This recipe for Asparagus and Poached eggs is quick, relatively simple to do and packed full of flavour and can be eaten either as a meal or as a snack”