The perfect white asparagus
It’s no secret that the finest asparagus comes from the Loire valley – singled out for notice over 500 years ago by the Kings of France. In fact, Louis the XIV loved asparagus so much that he moved some production to the Palace of Versailles and knighted his gardener – Jean-Baptiste Le Quintinie – when he managed to grow asparagus from December to July.
At Wellocks, however, we think that asparagus is at its best from March to June – a true harbinger of spring. We also think that the asparagus produced by Frederic and Laura Poupard at L’Angevine is the best there is – a perfect ingredient.
The Poupards are not your typical Loire valley asparagus growers. Frederic Poupard’s father was a cattle trader in the Loire valley with a vineyard and two hectares of asparagus. After leaving school, young Frederic didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps in the cattle business or the vineyards, so his father gave him the option of taking the asparagus and making his own way. Ordinarily, asparagus was planted as a sideline for families in the area to make a little extra income and as the fallow crop to help renew old vineyards before replanting. Poupard, however, took it on and focused on producing just asparagus.
Today, L’Angevine has 58 hectares producing perfect asparagus. Frederic believes that one reason for their success is that they are more careful with their plants because they farm asparagus as a main crop and not a sideline. The other reasons are the farm’s terroir and Poupards’ passion.
“We have the right combination of weather, human environment, traditional farming methods and soil – and after 12 years of experimenting we’ve been able to make the right choice of asparagus varieties that perfectly match these conditions,” explains Frederic.
The farm’s soil – sandy with a high lime content – is farmed using traditional methods and with a light hand. It is totally organic, free from artificial fertilisers and pesticides. “We are lucky to be blessed with a good terroir – and it is important to preserve it for future generations, for healthy workers and for perfect products,” he says.
Poupard buys specially cultivated roots which are planted and tended for three years before cropping begins. Before each harvest, furrows are ploughed between asparagus rows and ridges are created above the plants to allow the asparagus spears to grow underground. This produces the much-coveted white asparagus, which is picked by hand the moment a pearly tip pierces the soil. After six to eight hours exposure to light, the white tips change colour creating ‘purple tipped’ asparagus. After exposure to light for 1 to 2 days, the asparagus turns the more familiar green colour and develops a sharper flavour.