As the new season’s asparagus starts to arrive at FINK, we were delighted to chat to Sally & Richard Spilman about their farm, their asparagus and their tops tips for how to enjoy the delicious spears.
Can you tell us a little about your farm and the asparagus you grow?
Sally: ‘Richard’s family has been farming at Lodge Farm, Helperby for over 75 years and we have been growing asparagus for 12-13 years now. We had a seasonal gap between lambing and growing our soft fruit, so it seemed the ideal opportunity. We start to pick in April/May and carry on until the beginning of June. Traditionally asparagus shouldn’t be picked after Midsummer’s Day but ours is eaten long before that! This year we are starting early due to the fine spring weather but this time last year we were in the midst of heavy frost.’
Richard: ‘We now have 10 acres of asparagus spears which last year yielded an impressive 17,500 bundles, each weighing 400g, so around 7 tonnes of fine produce. Everything is done by hand, from planting the crowns and harvesting the spears to trimming, grading and packing. This year, along with our son Tom, we have a team of 12 people helping us, with more joining as the season gets underway.’
Why is your asparagus called Pasture Lane?
Sally: ‘The lane down to the asparagus fields here in Helperby is called Pasture Lane. The asparagus particularly likes the sandy soil and is very responsive to the weather; you can almost see it growing in the warm sunshine!’
How do you enjoy eating your asparagus?
Sally: ‘I think it’s best eaten simply; roasted and topped with poached or scrambled egg.’
Richard: ‘I love asparagus that has been grilled in the Aga with a sprinkling of salt and a little olive oil. It’s also good with pancetta but for a special meal, it would have to be served with scallops – delicious!’
You’ve both been brought up in Yorkshire but what’s your favourite part of the county?
Sally: ‘I’m really happy living in Helperby!’
Richard: ‘It would have to be the view over the whole of the Vale of York from the top of Sutton Bank, right across to the Pennines on a clear day.’
Why not pop into FINK today and pick up your tasty bundle of local asparagus spears? For more inspiration on how to serve it, try this delicious Asparagus & Pink Peppercorn Soup from local spice experts Steenbergs, or this fantastic collection of Asparagus recipes from Delicious Magazine.
For more information on the Spilman family and their asparagus, please visit their website at: www.spilmanfarming.co.uk