Search

Fresh Norfolk asparagus - from field to fork in less than an hour

PUBLISHED: 10:00 06 April 2012

Farmer Tom Sanderson with a fresh crop of asparagus. Picture: Ian Burt

Farmer Tom Sanderson with a fresh crop of asparagus. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

With just a couple of weeks until the season officially begins, it won’t be long before we’re all tucking into field fresh asparagus, a seasonal delicacy held in high regard since the Roman times.

But some restaurants and shops are already offering customers a sneak preview of the springtime favourite thanks to Norfolk farmer Tom Sanderson, who picked his first crop – grown under polythene – this week.

The farmer, from Beachamwell, near Swaffham, is working with The Berney Arms in nearby Barton Bendish to give diners the freshest asparagus possible – from field to fork in less than an hour.

Once the season is in full swing, Tom will harvest up to four tonnes a day.

“Most of our asparagus goes to Covent Garden and Spitalfields Market, but we also supply many local shops and wholesalers and sell at the farm gate – you can’t get fresher than that,” he said.

“We take around three tonnes down to London every night ready for the markets to open early the next morning.”

Tom, who also produces lamb, wheat, barley, potatoes and sugar beet, began growing asparagus on a small scale 15 years ago and now has 80 acres of the crop.

“The most difficult aspect is providing a continuous supply,” he said. “It relies entirely on soil temperature to grow. Asparagus likes really light, free-running soil and this area is particularly suitable because we are on the Breckland sands.

“The rain will cool the soil and slow down its growth for a couple of days, but it doesn’t make much difference – asparagus is one of the fastest growing plants in the world.”

The asparagus is delivered to the pub as soon as it’s cut and head chef Derek Byrne is often waiting in the yard, keen to get his hands on one of his most popular ingredients.

“It’s amazing how well it sells when it’s on the menu,” Derek said. “However you choose to cook it –poached, steamed or chargrilled – I always say the simpler the better. I keep things fairly classic, but with a twist. The main twist has to be on the presentation – you can’t mess around with the ingredients too much. Our emphasis is on keeping it fresh and local.”

Derek makes soups and tarts with asparagus as well as serving it as an accompaniment to main meals such as pork belly with apple sauce, but prefers to let the ingredient speak for itself.

He prepared a mouthwatering plate of asparagus with crispy bacon, smokey tomato chutney, balsamic vinegar and a classic hollandaise sauce, topped with a poached free range egg and rocket.

Derek started by cutting off the woody bottoms and carefully peeling the stems before plunging them in boiling water.

“I cook the asparagus for only a minute,” he said. “I then put it straight into iced water to stop it from cooking any further and to keep its colour. Once it’s off the field, the sooner it’s served the better,” he continued. “Hollandaise sauce is the perfect accompaniment, although I do have a few more surprises up my sleeve!”

The last day of picking is traditionally June 21 – the longest day of the year.

The spears are allowed to grow into ferns and spend the summer storing up energy in their long roots ready for next year’s season.

Tom said: “Asparagus can only be stored for a limited amount of time. Imports from places like Peru and Spain will come in, but when you buy English you know it’s not got many food miles. Nothing is going to taste as good as something cut that day.”

1 comment

  • Look out for farm shop asparagus at the farm near Rollesby Church. Always affordable and good quality. I have no connection with them except as an appreciative customer.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, April 6, 2012

Other news

The region’s historic churches have been put at risk after a decision to scrap a vital Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) programme for places of worship.

Yesterday, 15:40

A mother-of-three has said she hopes to give something back to a charity which helped her during a tough period in her life.

Yesterday, 14:54

Witnesses are being sought after it is believed burglars were scared-off from property in Brandon after they heard a voice call out.

Yesterday, 14:47

They are sleek, shiny and virtually silent, and they have proven a big hit in Thetford.

Most Read

Yesterday, 15:40

A mother-of-three has said she hopes to give something back to a charity which helped her during a tough period in her life.

Read more
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A recovery driver has been jailed for 15 years after being found guilty of raping a woman he went to assist at the roadside when her car broke down.

Read more
Norwich Crown Court
Yesterday, 15:15

I have lived in Thetford since the age of 10, when it was an everyday thrill to run up and down Castle Hill.

Read more
Thetford
Yesterday, 14:54

Witnesses are being sought after it is believed burglars were scared-off from property in Brandon after they heard a voice call out.

Read more
Suffolk Police
Thu, 14:17

Solid gold earrings and a Hugo Boss watch were some of the items of jewellery stolen during a burglary in Thetford.

Read more

Local Weather

Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 14°C

min temp: 8°C

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Thetford and Brandon e-edition today E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter