Call me stupid but the fact that Sand Hutton is so named because of its sandy soil had never occurred to me until I visited Low Moor Farm earlier this week. Sand, I also learnt, is the perfect medium for growing asparagus, so 18 years ago that’s what Ronda Morritt planted on 16 acres of the family farm at Sand Hutton eight miles from York.
Now she harvests from fields that look like fine, beach sand. Picking begins in mid-April with a team that come every year to this little corner of Yorkshire, from Latvia and Romania. Dispel any idea of exploitative gangmaster labour; sure it’s hard work but the lads and lasses have clean, smart, well-equipped caravans. Their washing was fluttering on the line on my visit. Barbies come out on a sunny evening and they were all cheerful except the guy with a bandage round his face who had toothache.
Asparagus, like no other plant, grows at lightening speed. The pickers can cut in the morning, move on to another field in the afternoon and be back picking the first field the following day. ‘Even the same day if it’s sunny,’ says Ronda.
The spears are sorted, graded and packed and then sent out, not to supermarkets, but to Delifresh, the specialist food wholesaler who supplies all the top restaurants in Yorkshire, to Paley’s in Malton and the farm gate. So if you want freshly picked Yorkshire asparagus, one of the best seasonal veg I know, then get yourself off smartish (they stop picking on 21st June) to Ronda’s Low Moor Farm at Sand Hutton (you will see the signs off the A64) and pick up a bundle or two and some lovely strawberries and raspberries while you’re at it: £1.50 a bundle when I was there earlier this week.
Sand Hutton Asparagus, Low Moor Farm, Sand Hutton YO41 1LH T: 01759 371855 (no website)
You can find Yorkshire asparagus at farm shops and farm gates including:
Spilmans, Lodge Farm, Helperby YO61 2PW www.spilmanfarming.co.uk
Wharfedale Grange, Harewood www.wharfedalegrange.co.uk