Still widely regarded as among the best in the world, British-grown asparagus has a delicate sweetness that inspires devotion when its shoots appear from late April through to June. Make the most of the brief and blissful season – drizzle with hollandaise, griddle for salads and pasta dishes, or serve steamed and butter-drenched with a sprinkle of sea salt.

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    Like any other cut stem, asparagus is best stored upright in a glass with a little water – and eaten as soon as possible after buying. Preparation is simple: just wash the spears in cold water and snap off the woody ends.

    How to cook asparagus

    Boiling takes around 3 minutes, depending on the size of your spears, or you can steam them gently until tender but still firm. To griddle, place your pan over a high heat and add your spears, drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, turning occasionally until tender. It’s ready when the spear bends slightly when lifted with a pair of tongs.

    What makes British asparagus so special?

    Reaching skywards in late spring and early summer, asparagus is the physical embodiment of the green shoots of spring. The climate of southern and central England – where most British asparagus is grown – is particularly suited to cultivating the slender shoots, along with the flat land and light soil. In extremely hot weather, the spears can grow 18-20cm a day, although in cold conditions it can take up to a week to grow the same amount. 

    At the end of June, plants are left to sprout into a froth of feathery green ferns, laying down energy reserves in their crowns for the following year. By late summer, the asparagus beds are a bristling miniature forest.