Seasonal Treats: Asparagus and Strawberries

 

New season's asparagus
New season’s asparagus

When we first moved here, it was frustrating not to find strawberries or asparagus in the French shops in the winter. I completely changed my mind a long time ago. There is a lot to be said for enjoying produce only when it is in season. First, you know it hasn’t got an eye-wateringly large carbon footprint. Second, it’s generally better because it’s in season and not forced unnaturally. Third, it’s more of a treat as it’s not available at other times.

In Paris or other big French cities, no doubt, you can get produce that has been specially flown in – at a price to match. But out here in the sticks, what’s available in the supermarkets and certainly at the markets varies with the time of year.

Asparagus

So we were pleased to see the first French asparagus at our local market yesterday morning. We have eschewed the Spanish version. And we’re certainly not going to buy the Peruvian variety, as we once did by mistake.

We are very partial to these juicy green spears with their delicate and distinctive taste. In fact we like them so much that we have been known to eat asparagus almost every day during its relatively short appearance. Connoisseurs claim that the fat purple-tinged variety are the best. I don’t agree. I find them bitter and tough and much prefer green asparagus.

In my opinion, faites simple is the way to treat asparagus. Classically, it is served with hollandaise sauce. But I have never mastered the art of making it. So for me it’s mayonnaise and for the SF it’s melted butter. We also prefer asparagus warm, although some French friends serve it cold with hard boiled eggs and ham.

Strawberries

Gariguettes
Gariguettes

Not just any old strawberries. They have to be Gariguettes, the variety that is grown locally. They are huge and misshapen and look like something that just landed from outer space, but they have a particularly sweet flavour.

I am not generally a fan of strawberries, finding them rather bland. It was an eye-opener, then, when we were house-hunting here nearly 18 years ago and tasted Gariguettes for the first time. We turned up late for lunch at a restaurant, which had only a set menu. Soup, asparagus, veal stew and cheese were succeeded by the sweetest strawberries I have ever tasted. We were hooked.

Again, they are available only fleetingly. They are grown extensively in the south west but also in Brittany, under glass. Apparently, this year’s crop is better than normal because of the mild winter.

As with asparagus, faites simple. Gariguettes don’t need sugar and adding cream just masks their flavour. The SF likes to put red wine on his, a trick he learned when he lived in Limoges some years ago. It’s not greatly to my taste, but chacun à son goût.

We shall be gorging ourselves on these seasonal treats for a few weeks. Then it will be time to move onto something else.

You might also like:

Figs and Fig Recipes
Saffron: Quercy’s Red Gold
Mushroom Picking Fever
French Seasonal Treats: Répountsous (Asparagus Alternative)

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14 comments

  1. Just bought my first asparagus – hollandaise is worth the effort but I admit I often just use butter! Usually wild asparagus grows in the little pine wood behind the house -great in omelettes – but rather spindly this year. Confused by the seasons methinks. Like you, I love the gariguette strawberries. Good luck with growing them, our climate isn’t ideal…

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    • No, I don’t think I’ll try Gariguettes. They need to be grown under glass and require a lot of attention. But I thought I would plant raspberry canes and fruit bushes. Not sure they’ll do well here, though.

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  2. Oh how I love asparagus but the green not the mauve or white … Luckily we don’t need to fight as fleetingly there will be lots and lots. Those strawbs look immensely tempting … I’m very partial to a berry so long as it isn’t forced and flavourless … I’m afraid we shan’t see those here but I can dream 🙂

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    • It’s a pity if you don’t find the Gariguettes chez vous, since they are really not far away. But I never saw them in England, so I suspect they are not exported out of the region. And yes, green asparagus all the way. Roll on the spring – and, after that, the summer…!

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      • I think we can find it in ourselves to travel to your little niche next year to taste those beauteous strawbs … summer summer summer summer summer summer summer is on my mind 🙂

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        • I do hope you can. It’s about time we met in person! But you have to come in spring, spring, spring, etc. to get the Gariguettes… We are hoping very much to come up to the Auvergne this year, possibly in late May since we are already occupied in September, when we would normally come. I need my fix of the mountains. We haven’t been since Sept 2013.

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    • No problem. It’s always lovely to see you when you turn up. And I am even more guilty of not following others’ blogs as much as I would like. I am so pleased to see you continuing to blog. You are such an inspiration to us all.

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Jon. I’m so pleased you look forward to my posts. It won’t be long before you find out for yourself how it is to live down here.

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  3. I’m with you on the aparagus – green are much nicer than the white or purple variety, and luke warm is best. But I love my berries and will not limit my consumption to the season if I can find fresh (not mouldy or water soaked!) ones in the stores. As you say, à chacun son goût. Cheers!

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    • The Gariguette variety only seems to be available around this time of year. I wish it were otherwise! I love soft fruits like blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries, but they have a very short season down here. I’m planning to plant my own so that I can take full advantage.

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