Grower Journal

A Frosty Start To The Asparagus Harvest

Grower Journal
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We know winter is well and truly over when we see local asparagus in the box and on shelves nationwide. We made a visit to our Lower North Island asparagus growers, Cat & Cam, who have been avid supporters of Wonky Box for quite some time now.

'Too Bendy' Asparagus

Upon arriving at the farm in Horowhenua, we learned that there had been a frost the previous night, resulting in most of the unharvested asparagus becoming inedible. When the spears in the ground freeze, they are no longer edible, as they turn mushy when they defrost. In the early stages of the season, a frost isn't uncommon. Although it temporarily halts production, asparagus grows so rapidly that it's ready for harvest again in just three days. In fact, during the season’s peak, asparagus needs to be harvested daily, and you can almost see it growing while you watch. Asparagus thrives in warmer nights, so growth is slower at the beginning of the season when the nights are cooler. But as we transition into mid-spring and approach summer, growth accelerates. Remarkably, the stems can regrow overnight!

Within Aotearoa, we have only three main asparagus growers who supply major retailers and primarily export their produce to Japan and Taiwan. In recent years, asparagus exports have declined due to factors like COVID-19 and fierce competition from Peru and Mexico, challenging our position in the market. The asparagus harvest lasts for just 100 days, and during this time, these growers are in full swing. It's a short but incredibly sweet season!

Asparagus comes in various shapes and sizes. These remarkable plants usually last around 10 years of harvesting, consistently producing spears year after year. We've discovered that when the plants are newer or at the start of the harvesting season, they are healthier and stems tend to be thicker and fatter. Toward the end of the season, the stems become much thinner as the plants are tired from giving their all.

Besides these seasonal variations, the weather also plays a significant role. Wind can cause the spears to curve, while hail can inflict cosmetic damage. Heavy rainfall may result in splashes from the ground, causing marks on the spears, which are deemed 'too ugly.' After the spears are harvested in the field, they undergo washing and processing. This delicate process can sometimes lead to the tips being knocked off. As a result, throughout the season, Wonky collects the 'too thin,' 'too fat,' 'broken tips,' 'too bendy,' and 'weather-damaged' asparagus, delivering it to our delighted customers.

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A Frosty Start To The Asparagus Harvest

We know winter is well and truly over when we see local asparagus in the box! Although the 100-day harvest is well underway now, the battle against the weather hasn't been particularly easy.
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