x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Asparagus: the superior spring spear

Letting go of my favourite vegetable may require some professional intervention.

June is a difficult month for me as a brief but important relationship in my life will come to an end. Over the past six weeks I've developed a deep affection for... wait for it... asparagus. 

Don't scoff: this is serious. How I've managed to overlook the brief British and European season in previous years baffles me, for now I'm not just a fan: I fear I may be addicted and about to suffer major withdrawal. 

White, purple or green? I don't discriminate. Flowers, tips or stems? It's glorious from top to bottom. Roasted, sautéed or steamed? The quicker it cooks, the quicker I can eat it. 

Unarguably the superior soil-dweller, asparagus is high in antioxidants, rich in potassium, folate, vitamin C and joy of joys, low-calorie, too. Admittedly, some people experience questionable side-effects but what a small price to pay for this wondrous veg. And wondrous it is, for what other edible plant can grow up to 10 inches in 24 hours? Asparagus doesn't even need to be replanted each year because it can reproduce by itself. And as I'm sure you're aware, this tasty treat is a noble descendant of the lily - just like onions and garlic, which must be why the three go so well together.

The sun is now setting on the European asparagus season and imports from the west are slowing down. Of course, for residents of the UAE who can't bear to resign themselves to an asparagus-free year all is not lost. For though the vegetable is not produced locally, like many other things it's available all year round, and rows of glossy Peruvian and baby Thai asparagus now line the shelves of my local supermarket.

However, and far be it for me to play favourites, the flavoursome British variety, with its tantalisingly brief period of availability, stands head and shoulders above the rest. Nevertheless, there are an estimated 20 edible varieties of the plant, and I can't help but like the idea of working my way though all of them, and becoming something of an asparagus connoisseur.

Of course as every budding asparagus connoisseur knows, the vegetable's greatest moment probably lies in its perfect pairing with Hollandaise sauce. The classic combination is immensely satisfying no matter how many times I eat it, a theory I've tested repeatedly at Dubai restaurants this past month. But alas, this time has now passed.

It will forever be my favourite time of year, and the guilt I feel about cheating on asparagus with broccoli and spinach for the next year is hard to articulate. I suspect I'm not alone and therefore hope to see a full house at the inaugural meeting of Asparagus Overeaters Anonymous this July.