As of late, I have been getting quite excited by a peculiar, protruding, purple head that has appeared at the bottom of my garden, peering out of a raised bed. I've been visiting it daily, more or less. Crouching down with elbows on knees and palms on face, I've spent the last couple of weeks staring at it, monitoring it's progress. It's arrival has been quite early, especially for this time of year but the routine has been quite pleasant really. Taking the time to just sit still and quietly meditate, with the sun gently warming my back. Once or twice, I have even cupped my ear close, to see if I can actually hear it grow. Get me, the hairless hippy. Occasionally, I have even taken a tape measure down there. Not that I've been keeping a written record or anything. No, it's just so that I can make a rough calculation in my head, to roughly work out when it will be good for harvesting, when I can slip a blade in just below the soil to sever the beauty before plunging it quickly into a bath of seething water. For no longer than 30 seconds.
So yes, I have been savouring it for some time and yesterday, when no-one was around, I took the plunge. After all that protraction, really I should have eaten it unadulterated, plain, honest, raw and pure. But I decided an egg was called for, a soft boiled Burford Brown, a small nod at luxury. Dipping the head in, now feathered and green, floods the deep yellow yolk up to the surface. The caldera overspills and gooey spider arms run down the shell and cup. I pause and eye the stalk, glistening and effulgent. Then down the hatch it goes. The umami rich, viscous taste of the egg hits first but soon gives way to delicate, fresh, perfect bite of sweetness. And in that moment, I am reminded that this beautiful, elegant, vegetable, when taken straight from ground and eaten straight away, takes some beating.
Later in the evening, a visit to the bathroom is interrupted by a creaking door and a small, enquiring, crinkled nose and the secret comes out.
"Daddy, what is that smell?"
And that's when I am in trouble. Because my wife had her eye on that asparagus too. Thank gawd there's more to come.