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Asparagus season

The British asparagus season has started, but at just 8 weeks it doesn't last long - so grab it while you can. Try this delicious recipe and swot up on these 7 asparagus facts thanks to Secretts Farm in Milford.

This Friday (23 April), St George’s Day, is National Asparagus Day marking the start of the season, and May is National Asparagus Month so things are hotting up for these little green spears which once went by the folk name Sparrow Grass.

Secretts is hosting and Asparagus Weekend at Hurst Farm on May 22 and 23 – a low key family weekend that revolves around the asparagus crop. There will be pick your own asparagus and an asparagus themed menu (think griddled asparagus with hollandaise sauce, asparagus soup, and more).

The Secretts asparagus crop – a Dutch variety called Gijnlim that is perfect for the growing conditions on Hurst Farm – is ready to harvest from the end of April and throughout May, whit it is plentiful supply. There are three acres of asparagus at Secretts, which produce about 1 tonne per acre. That’s a lot of asparagus!

Seven things you probably didn’t know about asparagus…

Growing asparagus takes patience. When planted from seed, it will take at least three years before it can be harvested.

1

Most farmers plant established asparagus crowns which give a small crop in the first growing year.

2

If the conditions are right, asparagus will grow up to 5cm per day. For this to happen the soil must be warmed to 12C or above.

3

Asparagus has both male and female spears. At Secretts Farm though, they’re mostly male.

4

Asparagus contains a unique acid called asparagusic acid which can give an off smell to urine after it’s been eaten. Although scientists are baffled as to why, as it doesn’t affect everyone. Weird!

5

Asparagus can be classed as a super food! It’s super healthy, as it contains neither fat nor sugar. There are plenty of phytonutrients called saponins which are said to have cancer reducing properties as well as being good a regulating blood sugar levels and maintaining blood pressure

6

White asparagus – also known as “white gold” or the “vegetable of kings” – commonly found in Germany, is grown without light to keep it pale. It’s apparently sweeter than green asparagus.

7
asparagus from Secretts farmshop in Milford, Surrey

Asparagus and how to eat it

There are plenty of ways you can eat asparagus – soups, salads and savoury tarts. But we’re crushing on this gorgeous recipe from Shirlee Posner at @eatsurrey.

Gnocchi with pistachio pesto and asparagus

Recipe, Gnocchi with pistachio pesto and asparagus
Recipe written and photographed by Shirlee Posner at @eatsurrey

Ingredients

  • A large handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 75ml olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • 4tbs pistachio nuts, toasted. Plus a few extra.
  • 50g mixed baby salad leaves, spinach or rocket
  • 50g finely grated pecorino
  • 500g pack fresh gnocchie
  • 100g asparagus tips
  • 100g trimmed green beans, halved
  • 80g crumbled feta cheese
  • Crushed pink peppercorns for garnish (optional)

Method

First make the pesto by putting the basil, garlic, olive oil, pistachios and two-thirds of the salad leaves in a food processor. Blitz to combine. Stir in the pecorino cheese and season.

Heat a large frying pan with a splash of olive oil, add teh gnocchi and toss gently over a medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until lightly golden.

Meanwhile, steam the asparagus and green beans for 3-4 minutes until just tender; drain.

Add the pesto to the gnocchi and toss together. Now stir in the asparagus and beans. Take the pan off the heat and add the remaining leaves.

Divide between two plates and scatter over the rest of the pistachios and crumbled feta to serve. Add a final garnish of crushed pink pepper.

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