Middleton: Asparagus crop is on track

A LOCAL grower is spearheading the drive to get the seasonal asparagus crop onto supermarket shelves.

Jack Rosenthal, of Middleton, near Leiston is part of Good Food Growers and is supplying the crop to the East of England Co-op as part of its ‘Sourced Locally’ initiative.

Having ploughed through weather extremes from drought to heavy rain which delayed the harvest by up to three weeks, Jack, who has been growing asparagus since the 1980s, says the harvest is now on track.

The heavy rain and lower temperatures which followed the drought in April and May offered a less than ideal climate for the vegetable, which is related to onions, leeks and garlic.

The summer solstice traditionally marks the end of the asparagus season to allow the crop to recover and reproduce for another year, so the late ripening of the plant will mean a slightly shorter time in store.

“Last year the season was particularly early due to the warm weather and this year it has quite literally been a case of waiting for two days with a constant temperature over 10 degrees to become business as usual,” he said.

“In the first week of May we still had no crop, by the second week we started to have a small amount, but it took the two days of sunshine over the weekend to get our delivery schedule back on track.”

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He added: “We could have taken the decision to put provisions such as poly tunnels in place to ensure we aren’t entirely dependent on the weather. But in local scale farming it is a balance between the expense of doing this and any increase in crop as a result. “

The co-op has sold around 100,000 bundles of local asparagus in its food stores across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex since 2008. As part of ‘Sourced Locally’, it works with four asparagus growers across the counties.