The Producers: South Brockwells Farm
PUBLISHED: 16:08 23 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:38 20 February 2013
The Douglas family grow asparagus at their farm near Uckfield. Their crop of this super-food has also been eaten by Royalty
The Douglas family has been growing asparagus on the family farm near Uckfield since 1997.
We initially decided to start growing asparagus because of a chance meeting in the mid 1990s with an asparagus grower in Biddenden who told us all about the vegetable, explains Chrissy Wells, who has farmed all her life with her parents David and Sherry Douglas. We needed to diversify the farm and thought wed give it a go!
Currently the Douglas family has five and a half acres in production, which produce 10 to 50 trays a day. One tray contains 6-8kg. Unfortunately the crop can drop by over 50 per cent in 24 hours if the weather is cold, wet or windy. A 62 per cent drop in 24 hours has been our most dramatic! says Chrissy. Generally we grow a few tons in a season but it does vary enormously from season to season and week to week.
The asparagus is cut fresh daily: We start to harvest by hand at dawn when it is at its best. It is quickly brought in from the field to our cutting room and shop, where its carefully washed, graded and prepared for sale, says Chrissy. By preparing and chilling our asparagus quickly its quality and freshness is assured. But we couldnt do it alone; in the peak season we have up to eight pickers and six helpers prepping asparagus to sell in the shop.
The cutting season normally starts in late April and runs until mid June but is totally dependent on Mother Nature as the Douglases do not force their asparagus by using artificial methods to hurry its natural season. We supply many of the best hotels and eateries in the area, several delicatessens and our own popular farm shop, explains Chrissy. Our home-grown asparagus is well known for its freshness, quality and taste. When in season, it is available in the farm shop seven days a week. We offer a range of grades of asparagus to suit every pocket.
South Brockwells asparagus is certainly the food of Royalty, and has been praised by HRH Prince Charles himself. Other celebrity asparagus lovers who have sampled their fine spears include HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, whilst dining with Lord Gage, and Des Lynam.
Not only is asparagus delicious, it is also very good for you. It is rich in folic acid and a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals: It is also low in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. It even has aphrodisiac properties, the perfect health food! says Chrissy. Its an incredibly versatile vegetable and so easy to prepare. You can steam, roast, griddle, stir fry or barbecue it. My favourite way of eating it is steamed with lots of butter and black pepper! However, asparagus is not an easy vegetable to grow: Planting the bed with the crowns will take one year, then we wait two years to take a light crop for about three weeks and then its normal cropping thereafter providing the plants are healthy.
Asparagus needs fertile well-drained soil in a sheltered spot ideally, says Chrissy. But the weeds have to be controlled as well as pests such as beetles, slugs, rabbits and deer.
The future of South Brockwells farm is growing more asparagus: We planted a new bed this year to take over from the old bed in three years time, says Chrissy. We also want to produce more home-grown vegetables to sell alongside it.
South Brockwells Farm Shop
Telephone: 01825 750466