May (well towards the end of April until the start of June) is all about asparagus in the UK. This crunchy, tender, delicious veg has such a short season which makes it all the more exciting to many of us Brits alongside our propensity to lose our minds over Jersey royals and, more recently, wild garlic. I’m a firm believer that asparagus needs little more than to roast or sauté in some butter or olive oil, but I figured I can’t describe this as a blog all about seasonal food if I don’t share a recipe for asparagus in May, right?
We’re not yet growing asparagus on our allotment, but it’s definitely part of our plan once we have our main crop rotation beds going. Asparagus crowns take a few years to establish, so while we’ve earmarked a space to grow some, it’s going to be one of the last things that goes in. That might sound counter-intuitive, surely we should get them in first so they can start to establish, but we’re prioritising our growing space to be as efficient as we can, while it’s still more limited, for things that will be ready to eat sooner.
I love a good forage, especially going up to Wimbledon Common for a good look around, but sometimes what I need to complete a dish is right there in the still-to-be-tackled side of our plot. I decided to create a version of a honey mustard vinaigrette with some garlic mustard leaves and a dandelion syrup for a summery dish that would work well as a starter or a light lunch with some chunky bread. I love the colours of an edible flower garnish, and – in my opinion – far from being showy or pretentious, it’s so easy to grab a nearby dandelion or daisy, and that’s all you really need. I’ve used ground ivy flowers (purple), dandelion petals (yellow), garlic mustard flowers (white), and a few herb robert petals too (pink). What’s wrong with a dish looking as good as it tastes? As long as the flavour matches up of course.
Dandelion syrup, or “dandelion honey” as it is often called, has been a revelation to me this year – it really does taste of honey! It’s simple enough to make too provided you give it a bit of patience. Gather plenty of dandelions (from dog-wee- and herbicide/pesticide-free zones of course), give them a shake to make sure they are clean and free of any insects, and pop them in a saucepan with a couple of lemon slices and just enough water to cover. Simmer over a gentle heat for about 10-15 minutes before taking off the heat and leaving to infuse overnight. The next day, strain out the flowers and measure the liquid. Add 100g sugar for every 100ml liquid and heat gently until the sugar is completely dissolved, then boil the liquid until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a metal spoon. It will thicken more as it cools, so prefer to let it stay on the runny side so that it doesn’t turn to toffee!
Asparagus with Wild Greens and Dandelion Honey Recipe
- 6-8 spears of asparagus
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic mustard leaves (or 1 tsp wholegrain mustard and a small garlic clove, crushed)
- Dandelion honey (see above for recipe) or normal honey
- 1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch salt & pepper
- Edible wild flowers to garnish
- Either boil the asparagus for 4 minutes or steam for 6.
- While the asparagus is cooking, combine the ingredients together for the dressing. Feel free to taste and adjust for your preferences of sweetness, acidity and saltiness.
- Pour the vinaigrette over your asparagus and serve garnished with your edible flowers.
What’s your favourite way to enjoy asparagus? I’ve got my eye on some recipes for an asparagus tart that I might just have to try…