Stalks and Shoots

Asparagus, Florence fennel, globe artichokes, celery, bamboo shoots and palm hearts are the best known in this group. Thick stalks of full-grown Swiss chard can also be included in this category as the stalks may be cooked and eaten like asparagus.

To prepare and boil asparagus and Swiss chard stalks

  1. Tie asparagus in a bundle and trim off the ends of the woody stalks, if necessary. For Swiss chard, cut off the green part (this can be cooked separately) and trim the stalks. Tie in a bundle.
  2. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add a pinch of salt, if liked. Stand the bundle in the pan with the asparagus spears upright.
  3. Cover with a lid (or foil if the stems are too tall). Cook thin stalks for5 minutes, and thick stalks for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for a further 5 minutes until the stalks are just tender but the heads of asparagus are still intact.
  4. Drain and use as required.

To steam asparagus or Swiss chard

  1. Prepare as for boiling (above) but do not tie in a bundle.
  2. Lay the stems in an even layer in a steamer or colander over a pan of simmering water.
  3. Cover and cook until the stems are just tender but the heads of asparagus are still
  4. intact.

To prepare and boil globe artichokes

  1. Trim off the points of the leaves, if liked.
  2. Twist off the stalks.
  3. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add 15 ml/1 tbsp lemon juice and a pinch of salt, if liked.
  4. Drop in the artichokes and boil for about 20 minutes until a leaf pulls away easily. Drain.
  5. To eat, pull off one leaf at a time and dip the fleshy part in melted butter or other dipping sauce. Draw the leaf between the teeth to scrape off the fleshy part at the base. When all the large leaves are eaten, pull off all the inner leaves at the top and cut off the hairy choke. Eat the fleshy base with a knife and fork.

To prepare and boil fennel or celery

  1. Trim the base and separate into sticks. Scrub and discard any coarse strings, cut into short lengths or cut into slices across the stalks.
  2. Cook in boiling, lightly salted water or stock for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain.