Our Yorkshire asparagus is sourced from The Spilman family farm, at Sessay near Thirsk. As well as asparagus, Richard and his wife Sally also grow strawberries, raspberries and crops such as wheat and barley.
Our Greengrocery manager Helen Bramley chatted to Richard to find out more about how they grow their great tasting asparagus, which is such a favourite with our customers at this time of year.
How long have you been growing asparagus?
This is the twelfth season now. Asparagus requires a sandy soil type which means it’s an ideal crop for some of our land.
What is the growing season?
Crowns are planted in a trench at the end of April. They are covered with soil and within ten days spears start to come through. For the first season these are not harvested so the plant grows into a fern which then dies down in autumn, and the nutrients within the growth absorb into the crown so it has energy to grow vigorously the following year.
Asparagus does not require much moisture at all, and the roots bed deeply into the ground. It is, however temperature dependent which means that it only starts to grow with any vigour when the soil warms up, usually in late April. The season usually lasts 7 to 8 weeks.
Each crown will produce several spears every day when the conditions are right. In very hot weather, the spears can be cut first thing in the morning, then another cut can be taken in the evening, from the same crowns, because the spears grow so quickly. Towards the end of the season, this growth slows down and 7 to 8 spears are left on each crown in order to allow the plant some energy to produce a good yield the following year.
How many varieties do you grow?
We grow an early variety but the most common variety, which produces 90% of the entire English crop, is Gynlim. It produces nice thick spears with a tight head.
We grow 10 acres of asparagus. The process is very labour intensive with every spear cut by hand. A team of 8 to 10 people cut the spears, put them into wicker baskets, then take them back to the farm to be graded and bundled by hand.
What is your favourite way to eat asparagus?
We eat asparagus every day when it’s the harvesting season. It’s extremely good for you! My favourite way to eat it is drizzled with olive oil and lightly roasted.
Why not pick up a bunch of asparagus from The Greengrocery and try this recipe for Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Frittata?