“Nature ordained that asparagus should grow wild, so that everyone may go and pick it, yet now we see cultivated asparagus!” Pliny the Elder

Heaven forbid, although I am unsure as to whether he was merely surprised by such commercial modernity or thoroughly outraged that he might be forced to shell out a few denarius for supper. But given the time and effort to locate and pick, I’m more relaxed about the convenience of cultivation over egalitarian access than the slightly petulant Pliny.

From late April until late June, Norfolk asparagus is abundant, and whilst frequently ignoring culinary caution and erring on the zealous side in my daily purchasing, I am acutely aware that new and alternative recipes can prove tricky to run to ground. Apart from mainland Europe, which has long provided countless familiar dishes, fertile ground for additional recipes has extended as far as Russia, India (to follow) and China.

Firstly, by way of acclamation of the season in France, I have frequently baked this classic Asparagus Tart from Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book (2013)


175 g shortcrust pastry
15 ml butter
2 eggs
2 tbsp grated shallots
215 ml double cream
8 -10 fresh asparagus spears, very lightly cooked
Salt and pepper

Use the pastry to line a 20 cm flan tin on a greased baking sheet.
Melt the butter and cook the onion until softened.
Beat the eggs and cream and season well, stir in chopped parsley.
Arrange the well-drained asparagus spears in the bottom of the pastry case.
Pour the custard over the asparagus and bake at 180 C/ Gas mark 4, for about 40 minutes.

Wine Thoughts

Asaparagus offers a forthright, distinctive flavour that often sends lighter bodied or richly oaked whites running for cover. The companionable echo of the Sauvignon Blanc provides a significant other for asparagus, with its background flavours of tart gooseberries and evanescent aromas of cut grass and struck flint. When we undertook a tasting with Arnaud Bourgeois at the family winery in Chavignol, we found an astonishing precision in his Sancerre, and we found the sheer purity Arnaud garners from this grape difficult to better when it comes to matters asparagus.