Two spears of asparagus on a plate. Artist: P. J. Hutchinson
Spring is nigh.. and it's accomplice, asparagus, is never far behind. I look forward to the arrival of this vitamin laden vegetable every year. Part of it is the varied reppetiore that asparagus is able to play.. lemon and asparagus pasta, chicken breasts (or rabbit) stuffed with tender, fresh asparagus stalks and gruyére, an asparagus tart with goat's cheese or smoked trout or salmon.. or simply grilled topped with any variation of lemony dijon dressing, a poached egg (or boiled egg, crumbled), and with shavings of parmigiano reggiano.
The other part of my asparagus obsession lies with the complimentary wines. While asparagus dishes lend themselves so well to the spring-iest of grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, they are also a good cause for breaking out a special bottle of local sparkling or seeking out one of the handful of delicious NZ Sémillon (and Sémillon blends).
Lastly, I enjoy gathering the asparagus. Not out in a field as you may think but rather during many a leisurely cycle through the undulating back roads of Hawera, Normanby, Okaiawa and Tawhiti. There is always a roadside stall to stop at and, as there is no better time, I always do. There is no one around, just piles of fresh picked asparagus and a small box with a few coins.
The honesty box is still fairly common in NZ agricultural regions even in 'this day and age'. It is the system by which I also buy berries in summer and mushrooms in autumn. The prices are nothing short of a bargain and even though I always leave proper change, it still feels a little bit like theft.
So, because I never get to say it, thank you to the growers of Taranaki Asparagus!
The photo above, illustrating the painting entitled "Two spears of asparagus on a plate", appears courtesy of Paul Hutchinson of Taranaki. His unique and beautiful work is available for viewing and sale on his blog, Postcard from Puniho. Thank you Paul.