How The Tannery Ruined My Life*

Have you ever noticed that it is it virtually impossible to find Irish grown asparagus in the shops? Every once in a while you might see British asparagus in M&S and it’ll cost you a pretty penny. It’s more common to see Spanish, French or Thai asparagus (asparagi?) alongside the ubiquitous and much maligned Peruvian variety.

I had been eating these imported spears happily enough for years until a meal last year (one of the most memorable meals of the year it turned out) in The Tannery in Dungarvan, Waterford. We were served asparagus that had been plucked from their kitchen garden across the road, cooked delicately by Paul Flynn in the kitchen. The result was truly like nothing I had ever before tasted. It was a woody, sweet delight that lead to a lightbulb moment for my tastebuds. “Aha!” they rejoiced. “So that’s what asparagus is supposed to taste like.”

Well, as you can imagine, every spear of this spring vegetable that has passed my lips since has paled in comparison. I got a very lovely bunch of Spanish asparagus in my Home Organics bag a week ago and it got me thinking about Irish asparagus. Is it grown here? Can you buy it anywhere? Is it better than the imported varieties or did I just have a magic moment in The Tannery? Questions on a postcard or in the comment box at the bottom of the post, please and thanks.

*may be a slight dramatization of real life events

I still managed to make a lovely supper with my Spanish asparagus. I blitzed some breadcrumbs, warmed up some mackerel fillets to go alongside my Spanish spears.

What you need for Breaded Asparagus with Mackerel for 2

Olive Oil

1 large potato or 3 small potatoes

1 teaspoon of dried mint

2 rashers of streaky bacon

2 slices of stale white bread

1 clove of garlic, chopped into chunks

Zest of 1/2 a lemon 



Around 16 of the thin asparagus spears (8 if you’re using the thick ones)

2 smoked mackerel fillets

Dijon mustard

Peel and slice the potatoes into 1cm thick rounds. Parboil them in hot, salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and put into a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and dried mint and roast in a 200C oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. 

Meanwhile, fry your bacon for 8 minutes in a drizzle of olive oil in a small pan over a medium to high heat. 

Put the cooked bacon into your food processor along with the bread, garlic chunks, zest of 1/2 a lemon, a good glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Blitz until you have breadcrumbs.

Toast them in a dry frying pan until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan or griddle pan. Cook the asparagus for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears, until their green colour brightens up. Meanwhile, warm the smoked mackerel fillets by adding them to the potatoes in the oven for the last 5 minutes of cooking. 

Serve the hot asparagus covered in the toasted breadcrumbs with the warmed mackerel and roasties, with a good dollop of Dijon mustard on the side.

Categories: Dinner


  1. Peter Ward of Country Choice, Nenagh used to have it. Last time I asked – about two years ago- he said that the Bayly’s who used to grow it on Bayly Farm had ploughed it all up and were now growing something else. Since then, I haven’t heard of it anywhere else. I wonder if they’re more inclined to grow it ( and buy it) in Northern Ireland?

    Nice post, I’m with you all the way. Joanna Blythman gives asparagus such a good write up that it ought to be available on the GMS!

    • Interesting stuff, I wonder if it’s a real pain or unprofitable to grow or something? I’ll investigate the Northern Ireland route :)

  2. Damn those Tannarians – could you sue them I wonder?

    • I’ll definitely investigate it. Creating unreachably high asparagus standards is, after all, an entirely suable offence.

  3. Sadly, I struggle by with the very foreign stuff for the moment. The French do a wonderful job of it too. A vegetable, unlike a businessman gains nothing with air miles.
    Lovely post.

  4. I bought Irish asparagus in the Dublin Food Coop two weeks ago (think it was from Ballyroan Farm) and it was fabulous; they’d none last week though.

    • Now that is a top tip! I’ll be scouring the Co-op this Saturday to see if I can locate any. Thanks Stef!

      • Yeah. I was really surprise, I even asked the girl beind the counter if it really was Irish. She said they’d loads of it this year.

  5. Ballyroan Farm do some, but only for their own stall at Food-Coop – not for wholesale! Someone in Cork does some, but it all goes into Dennis Cotter, I was on the track of someone in North Dublin, but they apparently stopped growing it a couple of years ago, so we’ve had to settle for English at our Honest2Goodness Market…

  6. Aoife, they sound just delicious! I have the same problem with eggs, in that I can’t order them when out, as there is no comparison between the shop bought ones and the ones from my little chucks :)

  7. I so love asparagus too! Could eat it every day! Great post Aoife!