Protected English asparagus mission heads to Brussels

April 20 , 2017

A team of English asparagus enthusiasts are making a cross-Channel mission to Brussels to thank European politicians for awarding the Vale of Evesham vegetable protected food status. 

The delegation heads out to European Parliament next week to deliver Vale of Evesham Asparagus that was given Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) by the European Commission late last year.

The status covers green asparagus grown outside within the defined geographical area and produced between April and July.

“We’re off to Brussels to deliver a giant round of Vale of Evesham asparagus to the European Parliament to say thank you for giving us the protected status,” tourism officer for Wychavon and organiser of the British Asparagus Festival, Angela Tidmarsh, tells Fresh Fruit Portal.

“We’re meeting a delegation of MEPS [Members of European Parliament] over there with an interest in horticulture and agriculture.

“Having PGI status really helps us to sell the crop and creates a lot of interest and it certainly helps the growers. We’ve been hosting our asparagus festival for nearly ten years now and that’s helped enormously with the tourism industry and the recognition of the Vale of Evesham region specialising in asparagus.”

Forecasts for this season look solid with good quality and production volumes. Harvesting has already started but the official season kicks off this Sunday (April 23 and lasts until July.

“It’s quite early this year and the seasons are changing quite dramatically,” adds Tidmarsh.

“The growers have been cutting for a few weeks outdoors and under glass about one month ago. Vale of Evesham Asparagus is grown outdoors, it can’t be classed as protected asparagus if it’s grown under glass.

“Growers will be distributing Vale of Evesham Asparagus to supermarkets nationwide and we will get a much better idea of overall production soon, but the yields and quality are looking extremely good.

Vale of Evesham asparagus can vary from light green to dark green, with purple tips, although this depends on growth speed and nighttime temperatures. Typical shapes are long thin spears with a maximum length for harvest of 22cm.

MEP Anthea McIntyre will host the European visit by growers, retailers and restaurateurs as well as mascot, Gus the Asparagus Man, to the EU Parliament. The Worcestershire delegation will set off on Monday April 24 with the fresh-cut asparagus, which is known for its flavour and taste.

The British Asparagus Festival (April 23 – June 21) has gained traction over the years and is considered a key driver pushing consumer trends towards the vegetable.

“Consumers are tapping into English asparagus more so these days, you only have to look at the cookery programmes on the TV, everyone is using English asparagus and I like to think because of our festival we have heighten awareness,” adds Tidmarsh.

We’ve been celebrating asparagus with our festival and the asparagus runs for many years now and we’ve taken it to Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and various other prestigious places and it is very well received – I’m sure they’ll love it in Brussels.

“For now, none of the English asparagus is exported from anywhere in the UK, it is eaten here, but in the future who knows. Provenance is big as well, because it is such a short season. Some people still do consider it very much the caviar of vegetables.”

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