Due to the mild winter weather, Dutch asparagus growers expect to be able to put the first asparagus out of the ground at the end of March. That is about two weeks earlier than usual, growers from Limburg and North Brabant say in conversation with NU.nl.
The previous winter was also very soft and even then 'the white gold' was available in March. Such an early harvest will be "the rule rather than the exception" in the coming years, according to Will Teeuwen of the Limburg asparagus nursery Teboza. The reason: a changing climate.
Moreover, the vegetables will be less thick due to the mild temperatures. According to Teeuwen, this is because it has only been really cold for a few days this winter. "The asparagus plant uses this so-called rest period to convert energy into sugars, making the asparagus thicker. However, consumers will not taste a difference," he says.
When the asparagus sticks up, the harvest starts. The stitches are done by hand. (Photo: NU.nl/Ben Saanen)
Record harvest again in Brabant?
Jan and Carmen Berkers from the asparagus nursery Berkershoeve in Liessel (Noord-Brabant) also notice that they can harvest earlier. "It used to be May or even June, then April and now at the end of March. It could just be that this will become the new standard," says Carmen Berkers.
Last year her husband Jan Berkers put out the first asparagus from open ground in Noord-Brabant on 9 March. According to the Brabant Asparagus Society this was a record: never had a Brabander done this so early in the year. It resulted in the Silver Steekmes nursery.
The couple considers it possible that they can break their record again this year. "Although I find it very early in the beginning of March. This will be a very long season," says Carmen Berkers.
Facts and numbers
- In 2017, the total area of asparagus in the Netherlands covered 3,807 hectares.
- The amount of asparagus harvested has grown by almost 40 percent in the last ten years from 15,000 tonnes in 2007 to 20,800 tonnes in 2017.
- Limburg and Noord-Brabant are the asparagus provinces of the Netherlands with 2,353 and 1,264 hectares of asparagus land respectively.
- The municipalities of Peel and Maas and Leudal (both Limburg) had the most asparagus grounds in 2017.
- The Netherlands is the fifth largest asparagus producer in the European Union. Germany is the leader followed by Spain, Italy and France.
Asparagus is grown under plastic tunnels. (Photo: NU.nl/Ben Saanen)
Dry summers cause greater problems
Yet these types of winters have no negative influence on asparagus production in the Netherlands, according to Teeuwen. "This way the consumer can buy asparagus earlier and we can spread our volume over a longer season. That means more money, while the number of kilos remains the same."
The last two dry summers have caused greater problems. For example, various growers were forced to stop after the warm spring and summer of 2018, because they ran a lot less production that year.
Teeuwen believes that if this trend continues in the coming years, the total available quantity of asparagus per hectare in the Netherlands will decrease by 20 percent. "The demand for asparagus will be considerably greater than the supply in five or six years", de Limburger said.