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WHILE asparagus first appears in September, it goes right through to April.

Spring cutting is done between September and December and the “summer cut” gives us another flush of this unique vegetable between January and April.

Of course, as with most farming, Mother Nature calls the shots and you guessed it!

In the first week of February there was a deluge of rain and floods in and around Koo Wee Rup south east of Melbourne, which is the major asparagus growing area in Australia.

There was considerable damage associated with the floods, however, the resilience of the asparagus plant and its ability to spring back means that local asparagus supplies have now resumed.

So get in quick to snap up Aussie grown asparagus now as the season will be over by end of March.

You will also be supporting our farmers after their difficult time.

Of course it’s more important than ever these days to check labels on any fresh produce.

It’s quite alarming that more fresh food is being imported!

After working with fresh asparagus for decades, I can assure you that imported asparagus is not a patch on the high quality of our Australian asparagus.

Asparagus is a wonderful source of B vitamins, vitamin C and potassium, which are all nutrients essential for good health.

With so few kilojoules – only 67kj (16 calories) in a serve – asparagus happily passes on its good nutrition without affecting our weight.

Asian Asparagus salad

(Serves 6)

Serve this fragrant salad with oven roasted honey, soy and sesame chicken drumsticks.

You can use freshly blanched and cooled baby corn or substitute canned baby corn.

• 1 bunch asparagus spears, cut into 6cm diagonal pieces
• 2 sticks celery, sliced diagonally
• 100g snow peas, trimmed and blanched
• 410g can baby sweet corn, drained
• 2 green shallots, sliced diagonally
• 2 tspns finely julienned ginger

Dressing

• 2 tblspns vegetable oil
• 1 tblspn lemon juice
• few drops sesame oil (optional)
• 1 tspn soy sauce
• 1 tspn clear honey

Cook asparagus pieces in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, until crisp tender and drain.

Plunge into iced water immediately for two minutes then drain again.

Pat asparagus dry on paper towels.

In a large bowl combine the asparagus, celery, snow peas, sweet corn, cut in halves lengthways, shallots and ginger.

Add the dressing and toss gently.

Dressing – place ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Note – if preparing salad ahead, add dressing just before serving.

Paul’s wine pick

The ingredients in this dish are sweet, sour and savoury – the matching wine will need a bit of complexity and fruit sweetness, and just a touch of spice.

So be adventurous and seek out a bottle of Gewurztraminer.

It’s fruity and spicy, and has nice palate “weight”.

Try the Lawsons Dry Hills (from Marlborough, NZ) or the genuine article from Alsace (France).

? Asparagus Rolls are to die for when you make them with fresh green asparagus.

Cook spears only until crisp-tender, drain and immediately “refresh” in iced water.

Then use sliced wholemeal bread, real butter and a little whole egg mayonnaise.

Wow, these are such an easy treat to go with drinks!

? Cook asparagus spears until crisp-tender and serve simply with good local olive oil, lemon juice and shaved Parmesan.

? Cooked and cooled asparagus spears are divine when dipped in a big bowl of Aioli.

? Make an Asparagus Salsa to serve with a steak or lamb cutlets by combining finely sliced fresh asparagus spears with chopped ripe Roma tomato, snipped chives, crushed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

? Drizzle green spears with extra virgin olive oil and sizzle on the barbecue.

By BARB LOWERY

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