Weird Weather Adds Wonky Asparagus

Published: 31 May 2017

AsparagusThe fluctuating temperatures of the spring have caused variations in one of the UK’s most expensive vegetables.

Asparagus has started to grow in misshapen forms, forcing supermarkets to put them on sale at a lower price.

Wonky Veg Sales

Morrisons has added asparagus to their wonky fruit and veg range, which is sold at a lower price in order to encourage buyers to pick it up.

The warm spring caused asparagus shoots to come up early this year, with surprising results. This particular vegetable tracks the sun as it grows, leaning towards it in order to get the most coverage possible. As the sun travels at a lower level during the early spring, this leads the crop to grow into a crooked shape rather than the straight spears that we are used to. As the temperatures have changed, the length of the asparagus has also been affected, with some spears growing longer and some shorter.

Now the supermarket chain is selling the crop for just £1 a packet, a huge drop in price which may help to shift the asparagus out of the supply chain and into the homes of customers. Morrisons claim that their 180g bag is the cheapest fresh asparagus available on the market. The same price is available at Asda, though the bag is smaller at 150g.

“We’ve stepped in to buy the crop as we wanted to help growers and put this normally luxury ingredient into the hands of shoppers for just a pound,” said Michael Weightman, asparagus buyer at Morrisons.

“The warm early spring and temperature fluctuations has resulted in 10-15% of our asparagus crop growing wonky this spring,” said James Dale of the grower Flamingo Produce. “Growing asparagus takes many years of hard work so we’re grateful that this part of the crop is being sold on to customers and will not be wasted.”

The Rise of Wonky Veg

VegSelling wonky veg is something of a new concept, brought in as part of an attempt to tackle food waste. It focuses on fruit, vegetables, and other produce that have grown in strange ways: they may be misshapen, have growth cracks, be much smaller than average, or even much larger. Before this initiative began, farmers would have to process this produce into products such as stir fry mixes or pre-made soups. The other option was not to waste time on harvesting the crop at all – a choice which could be devastating for livelihoods.

But with a rise of home-delivery services focusing on organic fruit and veg no matter what shape it comes in, supermarkets have taken notice and begun to distribute the wonky veg themselves. Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose all have lines of this type.

Those with fresh produce jobs know just how difficult it can be when crops are affected by changing weather conditions. A wet winter left us with a shortage of many products, such as courgettes, thanks to damp ground which left the produce rotting in the fields. The silver lining to the asparagus crop is that the produce actually hit shelves a lot earlier than usual: Tesco started selling it over three weeks ahead of projection, at the end of March. They have the jubilee variety grown exclusively for them from growers in Suffolk.

The same is true of carrots, with a seasonal bumper crop having matured early in the good weather. They managed to pick up an extra 1 million carrots from growers, which has led to a slash in prices – good news for shoppers who want to enjoy fresh food on their table.

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