California, Washington see shrinking asparagus volume

04/09/2010 11:01:13 AM
Jim Offner

 

Washington

About 25% of Washington’s asparagus production goes to the fresh market, said Alan Schreiber, executive director of the Eltopia-based Washington Asparagus Commission.

The industry there also has thinned out over the years, he said.

“It hasn’t been to the degree of California. Their volume decrease was a lot bigger than ours,” he said. “Our yields are a little higher but acreage is a little lower.”

Washington has about 7,500 acres of asparagus production this year, trailing both California and Michigan, which has about 11,000.

“We’re down overall because the processing has just left,” Schreiber said. “We’re a little different, though, because we’re up about 25% on fresh over the last 10 years. A lot of processed guys shifted to fresh. We’re one of the few areas around that have actually increased.”

The jersey giant — which is devoted primarily to processing — and jersey knight varieties comprise more than 80% of Washington’s asparagus production, Schreiber said.

“It’s got a good green color with purple tips,” he said. “That’s a color we trade on. The purple has antioxidants and a higher level of sugar. We think the flavor is a little better than the 157.”

There are other attributes that bring favor to the jersey varieties, he added.

“We think the purple on green is more attractive,” he said. “The purple disappears when you cook it, but it has a tighter head so it holds its head better.”

This year, the first harvesting in Washington got under way just before Easter, more than two weeks ahead of the normal schedule, Schreiber said.

“We started borderline record early,” he said. “It’s the earliest harvest we’ve ever had, or one of them. We have concerns about overlap with California, but we’re going to ease into the season.”

Supplies should be ample this season, Schreiber noted.

“I don’t think it’s going to be short supply, but it seems like there’s a strong demand for asparagus,” he said.


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