A pile of old pallets.

Fresh Green AsparagusIn winter you could be forgiven for thinking that they are just a pile of old pallets, some look like disused car ports or dilapidated old sheds, nearly all are by the roadside and look forlorn as we thunder past, but then just as we approach April there is activity, the pallets are rearranged and paint brushes are put to good use. Some have murals painted on the sides, some have picnic tables outside,  some even have flashing lights, but they all have the ubiquitous sign.

The first signs of the season have just appeared and nearly all proclaim the first crop of “asperges”. Yes these are the road side fruit and vegetable sellers who have toiled over their plots over the past months and have their first crop of the season.

There is much talk amongst environmentalists about food miles these days, or maybe that should be kilometers, and the damage that is being done to the environment. The fruit and vegetables sold have possibly the lowest carbon footprint of all, they are very often grown within a few hundred meters of the stall and their purchase only involves a detour of a few meters.

You don’t need an excuse to buy the produce from these roadside sellers, the freshness and quality is usually second to none. The “Asperges” signals the start of a new season of healthy fresh produce and delicious tasty meals.

In England we are accustomed to seeing green asparagus in the supermarkets and on the menus of our local restaurants , but the French favour white asparagus which is grown under a mound of earth to blanch it’s normally green stalks by protecting it from sunlight and thus fetches a higher price on the stalls. White asparagus usually has a much thicker stem and a slightly sweeter taste and is best cooked in salted water with a dash of lemon to keep it white. The best green asparagus has a purplish tip and it can’t be beaten, eaten fresh, dripping with butter or dipped into a soft-boiled egg.

So for the next 6 – 8 weeks we can indulge ourselves in this delicious vegetable, although this season is very short there is plenty more to look forward to.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for the exciting produce on offer and now I know what we’re going to have for our “entrée” this evening. I’m off to find a pile of old pallets….

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