The first time I tasted fresh asparagus was in England in 1975. Until then I had only known it as a vegetable in a tin. A favourite sandwich for me was a toasted cheese and asparagus and a macaroni cheese was made more special with the addition of a tin of asparagus. After that first tasting of fresh asparagus the tinned product was never good enough. I look forward to the Australian season in spring and summer each year. There is some small asparagus production in Queensland at Mundubbera but the majority of the crop is grown around Kooweerup in the Gippsland region of Victoria.
In general the more commonly available a product the less exotic it becomes but asparagus still seems to hold that “special ingredient” tag. I have been lucky enough to visit a number of asparagus farms and there is a special pleasure in plucking a spear out of the earth and eating it immediately – it tastes of the sweetest baby peas which might explain why asparagus and peas go together so well.
There are patches of wild asparagus in the Ballandean area of the Granite Belt which have spread from a locally grown crop many years ago but you have to be up early to find it before the locals get to it. There is a famous muscat patch where the asparagus grows wild underfoot and this crop is picked daily and sometimes makes it on to the menu at The Barrel Room at Ballandean Estate.
My hunger for asparagus led me to plant out fifteen crowns last year and I am anxiously waiting to pick my first spears but ….. the downside is that no spears can be picked for the first two years to allow the crowns to build up strength so they can be long term producers. Now that’s very unfair! My first lonely spear has now grown into more than thirty long feathery stems but I have yet another year before I get the pleasure of harvest. The asparagus is growing in an old cut down tank so is stopped from taking off and spreading all over the vegetable garden.
In the meantime I will be purchasing delicious Australian asparagus and enjoying every but of it.