Asparagus are overrated, so opt for broccoli instead

A wonderful alternative to asparagus this time of year is purple sprouting broccoli

Do we really need  asparagus to be available all year round? Photograph:  Bryan O’Brien

Do we really need asparagus to be available all year round? Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

We live in a world where food travels freely from one part of the planet to other. We revel in having so many exotic foods at our disposal, and feel it is our right as citizens of a modern Ireland that we all should distinguish our mangos from our kumquats.

But food travel comes at a cost. Both to the environment and to our pocket.

Don’t get me wrong. I love exotic fruit. Can you imagine an Ireland with no bananas or oranges? How terrible. 

One thing I do not understand is our desire for asparagus. It is a vegetable like any other. Every May I look forward to its brief appearance. But year round it can be found in restaurants and supermarkets. Do we really need it?

It is necessity or just laziness that cause so many Irish chefs to put it in their menus, claiming that the customer demands it. I doubt it.

Free trade

In the autumn and winter months, most asparagus you find in Ireland will have been flown in from Peru. Outside this period, it will be more than likely coming from Spain, though I have come across asparagus from Kenya.

International free trade deems it fair that this can happen. And it will continue to happen, unless we stop unconsciously filling our baskets and bellies with this little green stem.

A wonderful alternative to Peruvian asparagus at this time of year is purple sprouting broccoli. Not only does its purpleness make it way cooler than your average broccoli, it sure as hell wipes the floor in terms of flavour (when compared with international asparagus). 

Try pairing it with fried fish, such as hake. Simply pan fry your hake in a little oil and then add a glass of wine or fish stock. When it comes to the boil, add a few stems of sprouting broccoli and some clams.

Cook until the broccoli is tender and clams open. I like to finish the dish with a few knobs of butter and some parsley.

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