Food & Wine – May 2016

Visit to Rectory Farm, Stanton St John

Twelve members braved the inclement weather and enjoyed a very interesting visit to this PYO farm in Oxfordshire. Our guide Richard showed us the asparagus crop and gave us a very interesting talk on how it is cultivated.

Although white asparagus is grown widely in continental Europe, green asparagus is preferred in both UK and America.  It is a challenging crop to grow economically, as it cannot be picked until its third year of growth and yields begin to decline dramatically after about ten years. Furthermore new asparagus shouldn’t be planted where it has grown previously for a further ten years.

Richard showing us a two year old crop
Richard showing us a two year old crop
Newly planted asparagus
Newly planted asparagus

Asparagus picking is labour intensive as it must be done by hand, although pickers now sit on wheeled buggies so it it not as back-breaking as in the past. The asparagus beds must be kept free from weeds and the crop must be sprayed regularly with pesticides to prevent disease.  After a relatively short picking period the asparagus crowns must be left to grow ferns, which regenerates the plant and is essential for successful cropping the following year.

The Rectory Farm crop is sent to Worcestershire, where it is combined with asparagus from several other farms for collective contracts with two leading supermarkets. However if you prefer a more ‘hands-on’ approach to your asparagus you can always visit the PYO field to gather your own crop. Other fruit and vegetables can be obtained in the same way, or  you can buy from the shop where we rounded off our visit – not forgetting the café where we enjoyed teas and coffees, and of course the excellent cakes.

Next month will see us back in the  Carrington Room, where we will be sharing our favourite food and drink memories.

Geoff Heyes

 

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