In early May last year I purchased 10 asparagus crowns from a local grower who comes to Preuilly market in the summer. She only sells asparagus, walnut oil and cherries. Most of her asparagus is the thick white type that the locals prefer, but she also brings some thin green shoots too. When she had crowns for sale (called pattes or griffes in French, meaning limbs or claws) I asked her what type of shoots they would produce, saying that I preferred the thin green ones. She said that's what they would do if I didn't blanch them by piling dirt over them as they grew. The crowns cost 30c each (a third of the price of crowns at Loches market). At the beginning of the season she was charging a very reasonable 5.50€ / kilo for the spears.
the straw mulch last year.
Sadly, I think our lack of water means that asparagus is not going to thrive for me. This year they have produced a couple of weedy shoots each. All very unpromising, especially since my visit to Nick Freeman at La Maloterie in the Brenne. I'd gone over there to discuss developing a nature walk for his farm, which he runs as a chambre d'hôte with his wife. He has so much asparagus he is quite bored with blanching and freezing. The asparagus bed is in quite a damp area, on what was a cowyard. Amazingly, he grew the plants from seed last year, and is already harvesting kilos of spears. He very kindly gave me a fresh bunch and it was the best asparagus I've had for a long time. I barbecued a few spears for dinner that night and steamed the rest for lunch the next day.