Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
Asparagus may be in season earlier than expected


May 3, 2010
By The Canadian Press

Topics

April
30, 2010, Harrow, Ont – Asparagus farmers in the major growing areas of Canada
are riding a roller-coaster of uncertainty this spring as their crops are
subjected to temperatures ranging from warm to freezing.



April
30, 2010, Harrow, Ont – Asparagus farmers in the major growing areas of Canada
are riding a roller-coaster of uncertainty this spring as their crops are
subjected to temperatures ranging from warm to freezing.

At
one point in early April, farmer Keith Wright of Harrow, Ont., watched
helplessly as the spears appeared through the soil on his 42-acre farm south of
Windsor, only to find them frozen a few days later.

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The
early spring weather has been a “mixed blessing,” he says. “It’s advanced crops
earlier than we would normally expect, and if we happen to have another frost
we could potentially see a greater crop loss.'”

Night-time
temperatures have not warmed up even when day-time highs have been up in the
range of 18 to 20 C in recent days in southwestern Ontario, where much of the
asparagus is produced.

“The
traditional start of the season is between the 5th and 10th of
May,'' says Brenda Lammens of Simcoe, Ont., chair of the Ontario Asparagus
Growers Marketing Board
.

That
is the time the board has enough inventory to start shipping to market, she
adds.

Asked
what steps asparagus farmers can take to halt the damage to crops from
freezing, Wright says not much.

“Years
ago farmers would try to have a straw and hay burn to warm the field and spray
water on them to keep the air moving and sometimes it helped.”

In
terms of a growth in consumption of the first local spring vegetable to appear
on market stands, Lammens doesn't see much change.

“However,
I think the awareness and increase in interest has grown. And I see an
established clientele who eat asparagus all year around, and then there is the
die-hard group who only eat it in season.”

For
Manitoba, another major growing region for asparagus, the upcoming harvest
looks positive.

“We
have had milder weather and the snow melted early, so there is lots of moisture
in the soil,” says Larry McIntosh, president and CEO of Peak of the Market in
Winnipeg.

This
grower-owned not-for-profit vegetable co-op is a supplier of fruits and
vegetables from 40 or more of the province's family

“We
have one very large asparagus grower and several smaller operations and we
supply most of the western provinces as far as Alberta and sometimes B.C.,” he
says.

McIntosh
says the only drawback to locally grown asparagus is its time frame.

“Unfortunately,
it is a very short crop and lasts about seven weeks.”

Lammens
says that consumers are being encouraged to try grilling asparagus.

“Grilled
vegetables have become popular and grilling the large-sized asparagus is
catching on because it is tender and lends itself to various marinades from
simple lemon and oil to other mixtures,” she says.

Lammen
says that people are being brainwashed into thinking asparagus should be pencil
thin “because that's what they see the other 10 months from Mexico and Peru.

“The
perception is that thinner is tender and the larger is fibrous, which is
totally incorrect.”