Asparagus farming in Herefordshire


 

Hi, my name's Chris Chinn, I'm an asparagus grower in the Wye Valley in Herefordshire, growing asparagus along with my brother Henry and my father John. We've been growing asparagus for Tesco since 2005.

The asparagus season traditionally starts on 23rd April and finishes on 21st June. When we plant asparagus, we have a little tiny version of this crown. Plant that in the ground; we let it grow into fern and die back down again into the roots, grow into fern again the following year, die back down again. By that time, that's got enough energy then to send up a spear the following year which we can harvest. Really luckily, in one day we can grow a full spear, so we never have to use any pesticides or herbicides during the harvest season.

As soon as the asparagus is harvested in the field, we want to get it back to the pack house as quick as possible. There's three main stages in the pack house: we want to get it cold, so we put it in a hydra cooler, which is like a really, really cold shower and that drains the heat out of the asparagus in about 15 minutes; so a very, very quick process. We target to do that within the hour of cutting that spear.

The second process is grading and that's separating out the fat from the thin, the long from the short, the class one from the class two. It's really important, as growers, that we've got an outlet for all of that product. Luckily Tesco Everyday Value is a really good way of packing some of the slightly bent ones or the slightly open-tipped ones which can go out into the stores at a slightly lower price. So it's really good for the consumer but fantastic for us as well because we get crop utilisation and very, very minimal waste.

The third process is packing; so in a bunch format for your bundle or maybe into a little tip punnet for your tip packs. British is all about fresh and that's why British is the best in the world: we can get them there as fresh as possible.

We've been working really hard with Tesco to develop a new variety; we call it Jubilee, which was launched in 2012 in to Tesco stores. They've got a really nice colouring, so really nice presentation, but the main thing is in the eating; really, really nice, really, really sweet, really, really tender.

What you should look for in a nice freshly cut spear of asparagus is that it's lovely and green, nice and firm, it's quite a tight tip on it, not too open, and not too much white on the base. Tesco are launching a new packaging format which will keep your spears fresher for longer.

My favourite way to eat asparagus: baking tray, asparagus on there, salt, pepper, drizzle of oil, into the oven. Ten minutes later, in between a slice of bread, you've got the perfect lunch.

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