Asparagus “the aristocrat of vegetables” announces the arrival of spring — the season of fresh culinary choices. The name is derived from the Greek word Asparagos — 'sprout' or 'shoot'. It is a hardy perennial, a member of the lily family and a close relative to onions, garlic and leeks.
Most of New Zealand’s asparagus is green but a purple variety is also becoming popular. In Europe, white asparagus is sought after — it’s white because it is grown covered in soil and isn’t exposed to sunlight so the green chlorophyll doesn’t develop.
September 1 is the official start to the whitebait season on the West Coast. (It’s mid-August in all other areas.) Considered a delicacy and a luxury, New Zealand whitebait are the young of five different native fish. They measure between four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half centimetres long and are caught during spring in tidal river estuaries as the fish move upstream from the sea. They are not related to the European whitebait, which are small herrings.
Rhubarb shoots bright red tender stalks in September. It is usually served cooked but it can be eaten raw. But don’t eat the leaves. They contain oxalic acid that can poison you. To enjoy raw rhubarb, it is best dipped in something sweet first such as maple syrup or honey.
I used Henderson’s cured and manuka smoked streaky bacon — no chemicals, no added water and gluten-free. Get the recipe
Whitebait fritters are a favourite but you might also like to try them in omelettes and quiche. Get the recipe
Use the asparagus stalks only and reserve the tips for another dish. Get the recipe