Ten years ago the British asparagus season lasted from St George’s Day (April 23rd) until mid summer’s day (June 20th) and asparagus was purchased by just 3.8% of the population. Today consumption has doubled and 16% of the population buy asparagus at least once a year. The season has also been extended through the adoption of modern technology such as polythene films and new varieties. The area planted with asparagus in the UK has more than doubled in the last ten years but has failed to keep up with demand and every year in excess of 3,500 tonnes are imported into the UK during our asparagus season in order to meet demand.

Traditionally asparagus had only a limited presence in supermarkets and most was sold through farm shops and the wholesale markets. This has now changed and the majority is sold through the major multiples with Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose and M&S being the market leaders.

FFPO member Cobrey Farms is the largest grower of asparagus in the UK with 30% of UK production. They started growing asparagus in 2003 and now have 514 hectares and are investigating the use of polythene films, field and variety selection to extend the British asparagus season. They have developed a new production system for an autumn harvest of British asparagus during September and October. They have also developed a state of the art asparagus packhouse.