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

Yesterday, 08:00
Wasteland which borders the Blenheim Grange estate on the outskirts of Watton. This is where parents say their children are forced to play. Pictured, from left, Phil Sampher, Emma Cockman, Mike Wormall, Kristina Ireland and Jorden Leverton. Pictures: IAN BURT

A residents association is in good spirits after the latest developer to apply to build houses on their Carbrooke estate pledged to provide a community centre too.

Fri, 18:00
David Bimson

Tributes have poured in for a “dedicated” Brandon councillor and “absolute gentleman” who has passed away.

Fri, 13:28
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters worked to extinguish a flaming mattress in Thetford in the early hours of this morning (Friday).

Fri, 07:32
An old Milestone discovered buried in Thetford during building work has been restored by Nigel Ford of the Milestone Society (kneeling down)and put back in place along Norwich Road in the town. With Nigel are members of the MIlestone Society, Breckland COuncil, Thetford Town COuncil and Thetford Society.

In an age before A-Z maps, electronic road signs and GPS, they were a traveller’s lifeline - the stone Sat Nav of its time.

Most Read

Fri, 18:00
David Bimson

Tributes have poured in for a “dedicated” Brandon councillor and “absolute gentleman” who has passed away.

Read more
James Waters
Fri, 13:28
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters worked to extinguish a flaming mattress in Thetford in the early hours of this morning (Friday).

Read more
Norfolk police
Fri, 07:32
An old Milestone discovered buried in Thetford during building work has been restored by Nigel Ford of the Milestone Society (kneeling down)and put back in place along Norwich Road in the town. With Nigel are members of the MIlestone Society, Breckland COuncil, Thetford Town COuncil and Thetford Society.

In an age before A-Z maps, electronic road signs and GPS, they were a traveller’s lifeline - the stone Sat Nav of its time.

Read more
Thetford
Sunday, February 7, 2016
A car that has collided with the front of Tesco in Thetford

A man has been arrested after the police helicopter had to be called into action when a car crashed into the front of a superstore.

Read more
Thetford
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Four of the men found guilty of false imprisonment in Thetford. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary/Archant

Four men were today found guilty of false imprisonment after a man was held in a van before being badly beaten and stripped naked.

Read more
Thetford

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 5°C

min temp: -0°C

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

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