When it comes to seasonal veg, it’s hard to better Markham Farms asparagus…
Based in Newton Purcell near Bicester, Oxfordshire, David Markham and his brother started growing asparagus seven years ago. The decision paid off. The Markham Farms asparagus triumphed with the produce now hailed as one of the best in the country. We are thrilled to have their fresh daily cut asparagus on our menu in all Lucky Onion restaurants. But don’t miss it – the asparagus season only lasts eight weeks with no picking after Midsummer’s Day. We headed to the fields to meet David to see what’s growing.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
My brother and I run Markham Farms which has been in the family for over three generations. We farm about 2,000 acres.
What made you decide to start growing asparagus?
We have always been arable farmers, but in order to continue with traditional farming in the modern day, a lot of farms have had to diversify. One of the ways we did this was by choosing to grow a cash crop like asparagus.
Please tell us about the different varieties of asparagus which you grow.
We grow three varieties:
Gijnlim, which is early season
Millennium which is mid season
Backlin which is late in the season
These are all Dutch varieties as they are one of the best producers of asparagus crowns. Each crown produces 15-20 asparagus spears in a season. We planted 150,000 crowns in 15 acres.
What is the secret to growing good asparagus?
Asparagus ideally needs light soil to grow in and benefits from being south-facing. It also needs to be ridged up annually, just like potatoes. Asparagus is a maritime plant originally found growing beside the sea, so we also apply salt onto the asparagus field after harvest to enhance growth for the following season.
What sets you apart from other asparagus growers?
We are unique in our location within the UK.
What is the best way to eat asparagus?
Over the years I have tried many recipes, but you can’t beat spears cut and cooked straight from the field, steamed and served with butter – sweet and delicious.
Proudest moment at Markham Farm?
Having waited three years for the crowns to produce spears, cutting our first spear knowing the crop had worked was a memorable moment.
What else do you grow on the farm?
All types of arable crops.
What are the biggest challenges in farming today?
We will potentially lose our subsidies when the EU is disbanded and this will be a challenge for all farmers.
What’s next for Markham Farms?
Growing more asparagus. We have been growing it for seven years and love it!
Our seasonal offer of British Asparagus and Cloudy Bay for £15 can be found in all Lucky Onion restaurants from April to the end of June.