Elm Farm- home to our Asparagus!

13.08.2014

The Chef Development team love all things British, so visiting the Markham family’s Elm Farm in Bicester this June was the perfect touch to British asparagus season! Ten of our top performing kitchens who supported asparagus season attended a day at the farm, received a lesson in asparagus picking, dined alfresco in the asparagus fields and enjoyed the hospitality of others!

Our dining pubs & bars for the opening months of to summer featured the green speers of asparagus on their chefs specials boards and menus to add seasonality and provenance. Elm Farm is home to our selected British asparagus and have been producing it for seven years with an average of 15 tonnes a year. Fresh Direct, our fresh fruits & vegetables supplier and in this case the asparagus, know what’s good and in season, working with us to inspire our teams and ultimately the pub & bar guests to try something seasonal and healthy.

The health benefits of eating asparagus are that it contains anti-inflammatory quality’s, fibre, folate, vitamin A, C and E. If you are wondering why urine smells after consuming asparagus read this interesting article about foods and bodily reactions. View article here.

Meet Farmer Markham (pictured right bottom, centered) who tells us that the conditions required for growing the best asparagus are ideally a good proportion of sun and rain but not too much rain, as asparagus doesn’t like being too wet! The growth process of asparagus starts by placing the asparagus plant in the ground, this is commonly known as a crown. The asparagus season generally starts end of April/ beginning of May and ends towards the end of June / beginning of July. Once the season ends, the asparagus is left to go to fern, this is required to allow the plant to gain goodness and strength back into the base for next season. Once this fern dies off, it is cut down to the base and left until it stars starts to reproduce next season. The first 2/3 years of the crowns life you would not tend to cut or harvest much off the crown, if any. This is done to ensure the plant is well established and gains strength. It will also ensure you get a good life from the initial crowns which generally have a 12 year life before they need replacing.

For the Elm Farm a season generally lasts 8 weeks, with the peak being mid June , but as always we are at the mercy of mother nature with this. Once grown, the asparagus spear has to be cut to the correct height (average 6-8 inches - pickers use the length of a cutting knife to confirm this). The cutters will cut just below the base of the soil at a slight angle. At the farm we use every piece of asparagus we don’t waste anything, i.e all the bendy, thin, fat ones, all get used! When asparagus season is down, Elm Farm also produces rape seed, wheat and barley.

Learn how to pick the Best Asparagus at the supermarket or farmers market with Fresh Direct’s advice. Only select vibrant green firm asparagus! If it looks dry and dehydrated, don’t buy. The asparagus experts recommend eating asparagus asap or within 48 hours and to be best kept in the fridge with a light spray of water to stop it from dehydrating.  For knowledge when buying the British asparagus tends to have a pea like flavour and slightly sweeter than the imported product such as asparagus from Peru (Latin America).

Try Lee Brooks chilled Chicken & Asparagus Veloute soup recipe when you next buy asparagus with crusty bread and butter – it’s delicious!  

Chicken & Asparagus Veloute (serves 6)

Method:

  1. Prepare the asparagus by snapping near the base this will remove the woody ends, cut asparagus into 3cm pieces.
  2. Heat chicken stock in a saucepan and leave to one side.
  3. Peel and dice white onion.
  4. Heat butter in a sauce pan saucepan over a gentle heat and add onions cook for approx. 5 minutes then add asparagus stir well and put a lid on, continue to cook for about 10 minutes
  5. Add plain flour and mix well cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes
  6. Carefully pour in chicken stock a little at a time stirring after each addition of stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes
  7. Wash flat leaf parsley and add to veloute remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute
  8. Place veloute in a food blender in batches once blended pass through a fine sieve
  9. Stir in double cream and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Place in the fridge to cool and serve cold.

We’d love to hear from you also… Send us your asparagus recipes to lee.brooks@mcmullens.co.uk with a photograph of the final dish. If we like your creation/s we may honour the dish on next season’s asparagus specials bank.

If you are ever in the Bicester area (Witney OX29 8AP), feel free to drive to their road side farm shop during asparagus season. Note: picking asparagus is not available for the general public. 

comments powered by Disqus