Earthy and bitter asparagus is back. In season from September, asparagus is a vibrant and welcome addition to any meal, adding its fresh crunch to salads, balancing the richness of pastas and quiches, and even being the hero of simple, healthy snacks.
SNAPPY SALAD: Combine even more seasonal produce in the forms of snow peas, broad beans, cauliflower, and radish into a fresh and crunchy salad with asparagus, pine nuts and microgreens. Briefly soak the snow peas in boiling water, then combine with roughly chopped asparagus stalks in icy water before mixing all ingredients together. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkle feta on top.
EGGY SPEARS: In a fry pan, blanch in just enough water to cover a single layer of asparagus spears. Once the water has evaporated, drizzle a small amount of olive oil and fry with salt, pepper and chilli flakes until tender and beginning to brown. Top with a poached egg and serve with fresh, seeded sourdough for a light brunch or lunch. Add some fish, like salmon, to upsize.
CARAMELISED CANAPÉS: Sweet and crispy with a smoky touch, caramelised asparagus and bacon bunches are a great hors d’œuvre or grazing platter accoutrement. Wrap a trio of spears in a rasher of bacon and place on a wire rack over a lined oven tray. Drizzle with a 2:1:1 ratio mix of maple syrup, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce before baking for 15 to 20 minutes.
The short but sweet season of asparagus is finally here – and there’s nothing quite like the local, freshly picked spears from the farm of Gray’s Produce.
Christopher and Jenny Gray planted their ﬁrst bed of asparagus in 2003 and maintain strict quality control from ﬁeld to packhouse. The entire process happens onsite; picking, packing, selling and delivering keep the couple and their team of workers busy over asparagus season.
The succulent asparagus is the couple’s mainstay, while tomatoes and potatoes are also a big part of the available produce. Due to its high sodium content, the soil produces optimum quality asparagus, making for delicious green spears that are snapped up at the local farmers’ markets of Lyttelton, Lincoln and Opawa. Of course, the asparagus is also available direct from the farm in Motukarara, just off the Christchurch Akaroa Road. The couple are also beekeepers, and sell their own clover honey, alongside locally made goats’ milk soap and free-range eggs.
Several top Canterbury restaurants such as Otahuna Lodge, 27 Steps and Papanui Working Men’s Club feature Gray’s delicious asparagus in their dishes.
Asparagus season doesn’t hang around for long, so now’s the time to indulge in those tender green spears. The perfect summer superfood!
Visit Gray’s Produce farm shop, Christchurch Akaroa Road (SH75), Motukarara, Christchurch – just 1km past the Blue Duck Café. Phone 03 329 7905.
While you’re sipping your morning coffee and reading the paper, Christopher and Jenny Gray are probably already out on their property along with pickers, harvesting their asparagus crop – those green spears of deliciousness that we wait all winter for.
“Our asparagus season begins on 1 October and goes through to the end of the year,” says Christopher whose family has farmed in the Motukarara area for four generations. “The soil here is high in sodium and eminently suitable for growing asparagus of the very best quality.”
The Grays planted their ﬁrst bed of asparagus in 2003 and maintain their strict quality control from ﬁeld to grading shed. They are immensely proud of their product and stand behind every single bunch. No rubber bands hold these spears together, instead they are bound up with tape bearing the Grays’ name and address. “The tape says ‘This is our asparagus.’
The asparagus is sold at farmers’ markets in Lincoln, Lyttleton Rudolf Steiner School grounds, Ombersley Terrace Opawa, and of course at the farm gate – 1905 SH75 (the Christchurch to Akaroa Road). In addition, you can find the Grays’ asparagus on the menu at several top Canterbury restaurants, including the award-winning Roots in Lyttelton.
While tender, slim asparagus spears are traditionally sought after, Jenny says some people prefer the wider ﬂeshier tips instead.
“Every growing season is a little different, but we always have sufficient product to supply the farmers’ markets and to supply MG’s Packhouse which sends the asparagus on to supermarkets.”