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Asparagus’ crazy: the debut of this quintessential spring vegetable

12 April 2010 No Comment

The season of the leafy radicchio is over but it’s now leaving the way to another great vegetable ingredient par excellence of many spring dishes: the white asparagus a long, fat, full-flavoured, deliciously sweet and remarkably tender white stalk.

It is harvested throughout Veneto from Silea, Bibione, Cimadolmo, Padova to Bassano some protected by an IGP (Protected Geographical Indications) or DOP (Denominations of Origin) denomination to guarantee the authenticity and genuine characteristics of the product but which one is the best asparagus? Don’t make the farmers started on this one as they will go bonkers.

I would probably be impartial to say that the asparagus from Bassano del Grappa is the best but it is surely the pride of the local farmers and renowned even outside Veneto.

So travelling foodies come on, savour and judge by yourself the best Veneto asparagus throughout many restaurants celebrating this vegetable on their menus and festivals taking place during this spring months.
Here is a round-up:

18 April                     Mostra dell’asparago bianco, Bassano del Grappa
18 April                     Mostra dell’Asparago, Zero Branco
23 April – 1 May     Festa dell’asparago e della fragola, Farra di Soligo
23 April – 10 May  Asparagi e dintorni, Cassola
23-25 April – 30 April-2May 40° Festa dell’asparago Bianco, Bibione
25 April                     Mostra dell’Asparago Bianco di Cimadolmo IGP, Borgo Malanotte (Vazzola)
1 May                         Festa dell’asparago, Badoere
2 – 9 May                 Festa dell’asparago, Rivoli Veronese
6 – 16 May                Mostra dell’Asparago Bianco di Cimadolmo IGP, Cimadolmo
7 – 16 May               Festa dell’asparago e della fragola, Scorze’
16 May                      Fiera dell’Asparago Bianco, Maserada

The asparagus is cooked in infinity of ways as main dish or key ingredient to succulent recipes. Try the “risotto con asparagi” or it’s good with almost everything with seafood or meat dishes. You could have an entire full courses menu with asparagus but have a classic one instead “sparasi e ovi”, the oldest and simplest recipe to emphasize the tasty asparagus: just boiled them and served with boiled eggs. Have a little variant and smash the eggs adding olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, a touch of balsamic vinegar if you like, and then let’s dig the asparagus in!

Curiosity:

  • the white colour of the asparagus is due to the lack of sunlight by keeping it cover up so the plant cannot produce chlorophyll;
  • the less time the asparagus takes to get from the field to the plate, the better will taste cause the sugars in it will start to turn to starch once harvest;
  • if the lower part of the stalk seems too hard slightly peel it;
  • I don’t think it gives necessarily a better taste but using an asparagus steamer, cooking the stem upright, will help you not to overcook the tips which don’t have to touch the boiling water;
  • in Bassano del Grappa is a tradition that the asparagus season starts with the San Giuseppe feast (19 March), which is also father’s day, till the celebration of Sant’Antonio (13 June).
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