Along with maple syrup, fiddle heads and rhubarb, asparagus is a harbinger of spring, a clarion that the winter is behind us and fresh produce is ready to roll out consistently. There aren’t many chefs – or restaurant patrons who really care about good food – who don’t look forward to asparagus season. To taste the early season, try to eat a beautiful green stalk raw – immediately – after it has been picked: it has amazing flavour and juiciness. It grows well in many areas in the south of the province, and there are a number of producers in Ontario if you want to source local asparagus. Vegetable royalty welcomes spring The plant’s earliest, most tender stalks are a vibrant apple green with a tip tinged with purple – the colour that we associate with royalty. And the slender vegetable is indeed a royal guest as it starts to appear on restaurant menus. In fact, the earlier in the season, the sweeter the asparagus: the stalks grow from underground rhizomes and, because they must be picked by hand, it helps explain the vegetable’s price at times. A centuries’ old dish The Romans and none other than Julius Caesar loved the stalk; he simply ate it with his hands. There’s even a Roman phrase: “Faster than you can cook asparagus.” Centuries later, ancient chefs created cooking vessels which kept the thicker stalks submerged in the cooking liquid while leaving the delicate tips above water to be steamed. There were also inventive serving bowls designed for the shape of asparagus which had hollow sides that were filled with boiling water to keep the freshly cooked asparagus warm. At the table, beurre noisette, with its dark hazelnut flavour and colour, has been drizzled over asparagus for centuries of dining. Asparagi alla Parmigiana is an authentic dish of Emilia-Romagna, wherein resides Parma, Italy: cooked asparagus tips are sprinkled generously with Parmesan cheese and melted butter. In Tuscany, a food Mecca if there ever were one, asparagus soup is made with saffron, pine nuts and pistachios. White asparagus, a more expensive version of the vegetable, but one that retains a certain perceived luxury quality, is popular in Europe. It is grown covered with mounds of earth to inhibit chlorophyll production and has to be harvested by being cut underground, a labour-intensive process that adds to its cost.
About Flanagan Foodservice
Flanagan’s is the largest Canadian owned, independent foodservice distributor in the country. From our early days as a food wholesaler, we’ve grown to provide full service to more than 6000 restaurants and foodservice operations across the province of Ontario. To each and every customer, we offer uniquely personalized service, along with the attention to detail, reliability and range of quality products you need to grow your business.