The arrival of the first open-field British asparagus looks likely to be delayed by the dismal spring, but growers are confident that new farming practices will ensure a steady supply of high-quality spears. Traditionally, the season began yesterday (April 23) and runs until June 21, after which plants need to accumulate a certain amount of heat underground to ensure new shoots the next year.
‘I don’t believe there will be any open-field asparagus to harvest until mid May,’ predicts John Chinn, owner of Cobrey Farms in Herefordshire (01989 562770; www.cobrey.co.uk). ‘We have a special Mediterranean variety in our polytunnels that’s just starting to get going now, but that’s more than a month late.’
However, Mr Chinn is having success with the techniques he has pioneered to extend the season for homegrown spears, inspired by those used with strawberries. ‘Every pack of British asparagus we can grow means one less flown in from Peru,’ he says.
In the Vale of Evesham, organisers of the British Asparagus Festival (until June 21, 01386 565373; www.britishasparagusfestival.org) are adamant that the event will go ahead-it was cancelled last year.
‘We’re hoping that this year’s season will be short but sweet,’ says Angela Tidmarsh. ‘Producers feel the crop can only benefit from lying dormant for a little longer.’ During the asparagus season, the nation consumes several million spears each day-fortunately, in warm weather, a spear can grow 6-10in in 24 hours (01507 602427; www.british-asparagus.co.uk).
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