See: “forced” rhubarb, below

Clare Bucknell mentions that the young Jonathan Swift was taught to eat asparagus in the ‘Dutch’ fashion at court, adding parenthetically: ‘whatever that may have been’ (LRB, 19 January). Is it not more than likely the ‘Dutch’ fashion refers not to the way the asparagus was eaten, but to the way the plant was cultivated by depriving it of natural light. This is a practice still common in northern Europe. It produces a white stalk with a yellowish tip much prized for its delicacy of flavour. We may live in hope that, post-Brexit, the dining tables of Britain will be spared such outlandish and unnatural practices.

Jeff Rodman