“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses” Abraham Lincoln

Just for a moment, as May Day beckons, I steal my gaze from the airborne grace of our incoming house martins, swallows and turtle doves to a more earthly diversion.

On a nearby roadside, ostensibly appearing overnight in the same manner as our avian friends, we see the similarly tangible signs of a changing season in the unexpected guise of a barely mobile caravan. Seemingly held together with gloss paint, oxidised aluminium, optimism and Blue Tack, modestly hung with net curtains which, from a distance, might just have put Queen Victoria’s lace-makers to shame, this portent of warmer days, this herald of shorter nights finds itself prominently parked on a verdant lay-by near me. Not much of an architectural landmark I grant you, seemingly placed there by the twitching hand of entrepreneurship, but a welcome counterpoint to the Orwellian grip of the sprawling brick-clad bunkers we know as supermarkets.

Staffed entirely by another seasonal flock; that of affable eastern European asparagus pickers, whose grasp of our farming requirements seems far more pragmatic than our Prime Minister and whose enriching participation in our service industry would put many of our political masters to shame. This rural enterprise, historically undertaken by peripatetic workers, is not a pop-up commercial venture that would offer much comfort to his present Home Secretary’s post Brexit supper plans either, but to the rest of our more inclusive citizens, this re-purposed mobile home provides one of Norfolk’s long-awaited and delicious harvests.

And whilst the British Government keeps deciding that something must be done about immigration, we remain ever grateful to those who ensure our harvest’s continued provision. Green Asparagus is backbreaking to collect and an entire season’s crop must be selectively hand harvested on a daily basis. Thereafter, it is best sold and consumed within 24 hours of its inordinately careful gathering – our solitary trailer park offers the better part of that covenant. With a few links unhooked, it feels good to shorten the ever expanding food chain. And so few occasions in the year demonstrate such enriched culinary pathways.

A word to the wise though, Asparagus starts losing its sweetness the moment it is cut, so try and purchase fresh whenever possible. Eat every day of its eight week season if you are so inclined, and try to avoid adding the cost of aviation fuel for expensively imported spears during the remaining forty-four.

From Market Cooking (2017) by David Tanis

Perfectly Steamed Asparagus

700 gms large or medium asparagus
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
4 soft-centre hard-cooked eggs, halved or quartered, or chopped.
1 tbsp finely snipped chives

Snap off and discard the tough bottom ends of the asparagus spears. If using large asparagus, peel the lower ends with a vegetable peeler; medium asparagus does not need peeling.
When peeling asparagus, lay them flat and use a light touch.
To make the vinaigrette, put the shallot, vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl and let the shallot soften for 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard to dissolve, then whisk in the olive oil to make a thick dressing.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bring 3 – 4 litres well-salted water to a rolling boil in a large non-reactive pot.
Add the asparagus and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until just done (alternatively, cook the asparagus in a steamer).
Remove the asparagus with tongs and spread out on a baking sheet lined with a clean kitchen towel. The asparagus can be served warm or at room temperature.
To serve, place the asparagus on a platter or individual plates.
Spoon the vinaigrette over it, garnish with the halved or quartered eggs, and sprinkle with chives.
Makes 4 servings.

Wine thoughts..see Asparagus Tartlets.