PM loves that white asparagus

Asparagus growers Bill and Irene Cummings received a special text recently from a restaurant they supply. It read: “Thanks for the asparagus - the Prime Minister really enjoyed the white asparagus.”
That message, says Irene, is sure to stay on the phone for a long time.
The Cummings began growing asparagus in 2000, in a “lovely rural Waikato setting”.
“Bill, an ex-Counties rugby player first got into asparagus in 1989. We named our block Greenfern Les Asperges and our son-in-law came up with our logo of a native fern fond which is formed into asparagus spears.”
When a couple of local women set up a Farmers’ Market in Cambridge, Irene saw it as an opportunity to be part of an exciting new era and they were there for the first season.
“At last we were able to present asparagus as it should be - freshly picked and marketed within a 24-hour period.”
The move from the Cambridge Raceway to the present site at the Town Square in Cambridge has seen the Market grow tenfold, she says.
“And each season when I appear with this much-loved spring crop I am astounded at the foot traffic that goes through the Market.
For those who don’t know, asparagus is a deciduous perennial, and once planted it is good for about 15 years, on a commercial basis.
“It takes about three to four seasons to become fully productive,” she says.
The crop is hand picked daily and during the season they employ around 30 people.
“Some pick, and the rest help in the packing shed. Last season we decided to add another dimension to our crop by putting up tunnel houses covered with black polythene over some existing plantings. No light enters and this produces the sweet, juicy white spears which the Prime Minister enjoyed. These are marketed to some of the top restaurants throughout New Zealand.”
In addition, some of their bigger plantings are of the Jersey Giant variety, which responds well to the Waikato climate.
“We also have smaller plantings of P2000, which produces a lovely lime-green spear and, through our pack house, can offer organic asparagus as well.”
This year Greenfern asparagus will also be sold at both the Te Awamutu (as it has in previous seasons) and - for the first time - the Hamilton Farmers’ Market.
“People really support the concept of being able to buy fresh local product and I love the social atmosphere at the markets.”