The local markets seem to have hit a purple patch when it comes to the must-eat seasonal vegetables. Let’s first sniff out the asparagus, its season in full swing. Brought up as I was in East Anglia (home of Britain’s best pork), I relish the fresh green shoots of the new asparagus grown with loving care on long mounds in the garden.
The French asparagus snob, however, says that the whiter and fatter the asparagus stem, the more delectable it is. This is a lot more expensive than the thin green variety, at around €7 the bunch compared with €2 or €3.
But the true connoisseur reckons that the purely purple shoots from the Gard, currently on sale for twice the price of the white, are the ultimate taste experience when it comes to this difficult-to-grow vegetable.
There is a world of difference between the miserable topped-and-tailed green beans from Kenya to be found on chilled supermarket shelves throughout the UK and the real McCoy, the French grown haricot vert (the best around €6 the kilo). But you’re missing a taste trick if you haven’t sampled the delights of the haricot beurre, priced as the green. These yellow beans have a rounder, richer taste.
Keep your fingers crossed for settled weather in the coming weeks and, diseases and pests permitting, you will be able to buy purple beans – haricot violet. These are an ancient variety recently finding their way back in the favour with the bean brigade. They may cost a few cents more than the green and yellow, but go ahead and buy, as you will be supporting a minority vegetable.
And remember: never put your beans, or your asparagus for that matter, in the frigo. It’s a sure way to stifle the fresh taste.
Prices as at 2014