We are glad to be saying a warm welcome to British Asparagus this month, with the first rounds of asparagus arriving from Wye Valley Produce. During the second world war, asparagus availability reduced drastically due to growers being forbidden from planting new beds, this in turn caused a decline in the popularity. In recent years, thanks to celebrity chefs including asparagus in a plethora of recipes, popularity has soon picked up.
Asparagus has always been strongly linked to the Vale of Evesham, with Evesham even hosting The British Asparagus Festival. Historically, most of the UK’s crop was grown in Worcestershire. The Vale of Evesham’s microclimate is ideal for producing the perfect flavour and texture. Asparagus is traditionally grown best on light, sandy soils, but surprisingly asparagus also flourishes when grown on the heavy Evesham clay. The Vale of Evesham variety is grown exclusively in the Vale of Evesham, and has always been well received by chefs, but has a short season as it is only harvested between April and July.
Grown by the Chinn family, Wye Valley Produce is located in Wye Valley, near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. Their very first asparagus crop was planted in the spring of 2003 and they haven't looked back, they are now one of the UKs largest asparagus growers. Their asparagus is hand-harvested and then hydro-cooled to 2°C within the hour to ensure freshness and flavour. Wye valley offers traditional green speared, purple tipped asparagus, as well as the slightly bitter white asparagus, and the nuttier, sweeter purple asparagus.
Asparagus growing is an art that has been passed down from each generation of market gardener. Traditionally asparagus is cut just below the soil with an asparagus knife, the spears are then bundled into rounds of 15 and tied into hundreds. Surprisingly the hundred contains 120 spears not 100 as you would expect. Traditionally, the rounds where then placed in its own wicker basket known as a flat to be transported to the markets.
Did you know that British Asparagus can grow up to 10cm per day? Asparagus is a very versatile vegetable that can be cooked in a variety of ways - boiled, steamed, roasted or even barbecued. Although it is known for making your urine smell funny, it has many health benefits, including helping with bloating and weight loss. Asparagus is packed with vitamins, iron, protein and plenty of antioxidants, so definitely worth adding to your plates this spring!