Asparagus tops crops in demand


Wattie's started canning asparagus yesterday and, despite working with growers to bring on new asparagus blocks, it still can't get enough of the spring delicacy.

Wattie's agronomist Adrian Rigby says that the company will take as much asparagus as it can get.

"There really seems to have been a resurgence of people enjoying asparagus over the last few years," he said.

Between now and early December the company plans to produce almost 700,000 cans of prized asparagus spears, but the final tally is very weather dependent.

"Along with our suppliers, this year we are hoping for a much better asparagus season. Because of cold wet weather, the previous two seasons have not lived up to our expectations.

"Although only a small part of our total fruit and vegetable operation, asparagus is a very special crop for Wattie's. It is one of our heritage crops, after Sir James Wattie tested the market in the earliest days of business."

The Wattie's crop has been picked and processed in the same way for more than 75 years. From harvesting through to processing, it is more labour intensive than many other crops.

In the paddock, each spear is hand selected and cut.

The spears are then manually fed into the line to get the best quality, freshest and tastiest spears for canning.

Mr Rigby says that when it comes to the harvest, the goal for maintaining quality is having the freshly-picked asparagus out of the paddock and into cool storage at Wattie's as fast as possible.

"Once in the Hastings plant the washing, cutting, blanching, canning and sterilisation process [heating the can containing the asparagus in a retort] takes around 30 minutes.

"When the cans are cool, they are labelled."

Aside from its heritage qualities for Wattie's, asparagus is recognised for its nutritional benefits, as it is a source of folate, potassium and vitamin C.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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