Search

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

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014
The new B1112 underpass which opened today

Another milestone in the dualling of the A11 was reached at the weekend with the opening of the new B1112 underpass.

Saturday, October 18, 2014
L-r Tiago Pereira, Orlando Bento man the stall True Flavor

A taste of Portuguese food and wine was available to visitors to a special trade fair to encourage small businesses and consumers to build new contacts in the southern European country.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A crash involving a Citroen and Toyota Celica has closed the northbound carriageway on the A11 this morning.

Saturday, October 18, 2014
Colin Lang, Nelson's Journey chief executive.
Picture: Denise Bradley

One of Norfolk’s biggest charities, dedicated to supporting bereaved children, needs a major expansion to meet “unprecedented” demand for its services.

Most read

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A crash involving a Citroen and Toyota Celica has closed the northbound carriageway on the A11 this morning.

Read more
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Police are appealing for any information following a burglary.

A 23-year-old woman from Thetford will face trial after she was charged with taking indecent photographs of a child.

Read more
Saturday, October 18, 2014
The new B1112 underpass which opened today

Another milestone in the dualling of the A11 was reached at the weekend with the opening of the new B1112 underpass.

Read more
Saturday, October 18, 2014
L-r Tiago Pereira, Orlando Bento man the stall True Flavor

A taste of Portuguese food and wine was available to visitors to a special trade fair to encourage small businesses and consumers to build new contacts in the southern European country.

Read more
Friday, October 17, 2014
Pc Rebecca Gardiner.

Two Suffolk police constables have been recognised for their bravery after risking their lives when dealing with a knife-wielding drink-driver who stabbed himself in the stomach and attacked them.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 13°C

min temp: 10°C

Digital edition

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