Publication of an application pursuant to Article 50(2)(a) of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs
This publication confers the right to oppose the application pursuant to Article 51 of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council (1).
‘VALE OF EVESHAM ASPARAGUS’
EC No: PGI-GB-02108 — 21.1.2016
PDO ( ) PGI ( X )
‘Vale of Evesham Asparagus’
2.Member State or Third Country
3.Description of the agricultural product or foodstuff
3.1.Type of product
Class 1.6. Fruit, vegetables and cereals, fresh or processed
3.2.Description of product to which the name in (1) applies
Vale of Evesham asparagus is the name given to green asparagus which has been grown in the defined geographical area. Vale of Evesham asparagus is produced only between the months of April and July.
Vale of Evesham asparagus can vary from light green to dark green in colour, with purple tips depending on the speed of growth and night-time temperatures.
The shape can vary according to variety in very subtle ways. Typical shapes are long thin spears from 8 mm diameter mid-spear to 24 mm. The maximum length for harvest is 22 cm. The flavour of raw asparagus resembles that of fresh peas and is brittle and crunchy to the taste. Cooked asparagus takes on the full flavour of mellow nutty artichokes, and has the aroma of faint grass and fresh peas which can vary according to the temperature during which it is harvested.
Vale of Evesham Asparagus is sold either in a banded bundle, a flow-wrapped pack or a plastic sleeve for supermarkets, and naked in bundles for farm shops. The product has to meet the Evesham Asparagus quality specification which follows below:
Product will be graded into evenly hand-trimmed bundles with a length between 15 and 22 cm. Spear diameters within the bundle will be within 4 mm range as follows, 4-8, 8-12, 12-16, 16-20, 20-24 mm measured from mid-spear.
Spears are to be clean fresh and whole, with no signs of breakdown, live pests or progressive disease.
Curvature should be minimal and products oriented within the finished product to present a uniform appearance. Spears where there is extreme tip curvature of more than 70 degrees should not be used, curvature from mid-spear should also be avoided. Spear tips should be closed with only minimal seeding.
3.3.Feed (for products of animal origin only) and raw materials (for processed products only)
3.4.Specific steps in production that must take place in the identified geographical area
The crop must be grown within the area of the Vale of Evesham as defined in the product specification.
3.5.Specific rules concerning slicing, grating, packaging, etc. of the product the registered name refers to
Vale of Evesham asparagus is sold as a diameter- and length-graded product.
The product is then to be packed into either a banded bundle, a flow-wrapped pack or a plastic sleeve for supermarkets, and naked in bundles for farm shops.
The product is to be banded into 4 mm diameter groupings and has to meet the Evesham asparagus quality specification.
3.6.Specific rules concerning labelling of the product the registered name refers to
The ‘PGI’ logo must appear on all labelling in the same field of vision as the protected name.
The PGI logo must be in the correct ‘format’ and no less than 15 mm in diameter
The packaging and all point-of-sale material must be marked with the certification number of the producer as issued by the inspection body.
4.Concise definition of the geographical area
The area is defined by the district areas of Malvern Hills, Wychavon and Stratford upon Avon district council boundaries.
5.Link with the geographical area
The flavour and texture of Vale of Evesham asparagus is primarily driven by the growing conditions and soil environment of the Vale of Evesham, as well as knowledge and experience of how best to grow the product. The Vale of Evesham has a long history of asparagus-growing, and much tradition surrounds the product. The Vale of Evesham enjoys a reputation for producing asparagus of the highest quality.
The microclimate of the Vale of Evesham and the prevailing soil types are critical factors in assuring the quality of the product. Asparagus grown in the geographical area is defined by the unique fields of deep sandy soil that are derived from the underlying Devonian sandstone in the river basins of the Severn (Worcestershire) and Avon (Worcestershire and Warwickshire). The sandy soil is well drained and warms up quickly in the spring temperatures.
The flavour of Vale of Evesham asparagus is composed of primary metabolites produced directly from photosynthesis, for example sugars; and secondary metabolites, produced by the plant in response to environmental conditions and often as a reaction to plant stress. The microclimate and soil environment in which the crown is grown is therefore of critical importance in the development of the products flavour.
The Vale of Evesham provides a temperate climate with warm dry summers which favour photosynthesis during the fern period and allow the fern to remain green into the early autumn, this late fern allows a long time for bud formation and leads to the range of spear sizes characteristic of vale of Evesham asparagus as well as giving a good carbohydrate fill to the root system which leads to a sweet pea-like flavour to the crop of the following year. The average rainfall for the region is 700 mm which is well distributed through the year and removes the need for irrigation during the fern period (July-Oct). Summer temperatures range from 15-30 °C. Springs see a gradual build up of soil temperature which gently breaks crown dormancy and produces an early April season start. Temperatures during the season vary over a wide range and this variance in temperature combines with the soil characteristics to provide a degree of mild stress that promotes the classic flavour of Vale of Evesham asparagus.
The sandy soils of the Vale of Evesham asparagus fields provide ample depth of soil for crowns to establish deep root systems with which to store the sugars produced during the summer. This promotes the health of the crown and gives an additional sweetness to the crop. They warm well in the spring, allowing for an early season. The sand fraction warms with a sharply defined thermal profile through the soil and which changes the growth rate of the spear as it emerges through the profile. This all contributes to the production of secondary metabolites (including the balance of anthocyanins) which give the asparagus from the Vale of Evesham its distinctive flavour.
The reactive nature of the soil means soil temperatures react quickly to changing day and night temperatures and provide another gentle stress to the crown in the spring which aids development of flavour and promotes the distinctive Vale of Evesham character. The absence of a significant clay fraction means the soil provides less mechanical resistance to the spears and allows relatively free movement of the emerging spear through the soil. This gives the spears a relatively even diameter and firm delicate texture.
The unique combination of soil and microclimate produce the fast-growing spears and flavour and texture that are characteristic of the Vale of Evesham asparagus. Fields are rotated, but generally cannot be replanted with asparagus for around 30 years due to the disease pressure built up in the soil. The best asparagus fields are stone-free as this allows unhindered growth of asparagus spears through the soil to the surface. This is important as too many stones will impair spear quality. Site selection is very critical and not every field will suit production of asparagus for these reasons. It is also important that growers consider the environment and select only fields that have the correct aspect that does not encourage soil erosion into water courses. Fields must be generally slightly sloping for the best aspect. It is no accident then that the asparagus fields are located in these river basin areas that best suit the production of asparagus.
In order to achieve the best results, the grower, using his experience of each field, needs always to take care over deciding when to pulverise and desiccate the previous year’s fern and when to make up the beds for the following harvest season. It is important that the soil is dry enough to take the weight of the tractor so that compaction of the roots is minimised. A wet soil that is made into asparagus beds will drain poorly and compact very quickly with subsequent rains and when walked on during harvesting. The grower needs also to understand the risk of wind exposure for certain varieties that lack the strength in fern to remain upright for the photosynthetic period post harvest. Varieties low in lignin must not be planted in windy sites as they will fall over in the fern period of growth and not produce enough carbohydrate in the root to maintain economic production in the following year.
At the start of each cropping season all the harvesters are trained in the skill of cutting asparagus. A short serrated knife is used, firstly to measure the correct height of the spear and secondly to allow a push pull action to swiftly cut the spear just below soil level without knocking the spear into the soil. The spears are then laid in field trays, tip facing tip, to avoid soil getting into the edible end of the vegetable.
During the season the grower must use his skill to determine when to harvest each field. During cool periods where the soil temperatures hover around the 10 degree centigrade mark, the production is slow and harvesters will need to be sent onto the field other every day in order to cut the correct length for spear production. However, if the soil temperatures increase to over 14 degrees centigrade then a ‘flush’ occurs and growers must look to harvest fields as fast as possible, sometimes twice in a day if necessary.
The Vale of Evesham is renowned for its production of this most luxurious vegetable — asparagus or ‘gras’ as it is locally known. Evesham is the only town centre in the United Kingdom with an asparagus field within its boundaries, and such is the crop’s importance to the economic and cultural history of the Vale of Evesham, that a major event celebrating this majestic vegetable has developed attracting thousands of visitors from all corners of the world. The festival is held in the region to promote this crop and a community interest company, of which all applicants are members, with the sole aim of promoting asparagus within the area. St George’s Day sees the launch of the Asparagus Festival with an Asparagus Run throughout the Vale.
In Bretforton, the 650-year-old Fleece Inn holds an annual Asparagus Auction that has been held for at least 35 years. The finest local spears or ‘buds of gras’ are carefully tied with willow strips into traditional bundles and auctioned or raffled in aid of the Bretforton Silver Band. The most ever paid for a bunch was GBP 750, by the Round of Gras pub in Badsey, which claims to be the world’s only pub named after a bunch of asparagus. Many other asparagus related events take place throughout the Vale between 23 April and 21 June each year, the harvest period, offering the opportunity to taste, buy, cook and learn about one of the nation’s most sought-after delicacies.
Asparagus-growing in the Vale of Evesham is a tradition whose longstanding history can be traced back to 1768 when Arthur Young, the then Secretary of the Board of Agriculture, visited the town. In his book A six months tour of the north of England, published in 1771, he tells us that asparagus was carried from Evesham to Bath and Bristol to be sold. A letter from an Evesham writer to The Morning Chronicle newspaper, 30 August 1782, also mentions asparagus being sent from the town to Bath and Bristol.
W. Pitt in his General view of the agriculture of the county of Worcester (1813) saw several flats of asparagus in the fields. (A flat in this context refers to a large stretch of level ground.) In 1830 the Royal Horticultural Society awarded a medal to Anthony New for his fine specimens of asparagus exhibited at shows of the Vale of Evesham Society in this and the previous year. (See Gaut: A history of Worcs agriculture, page 294).
With the rapid growth of the market gardening industry during the last quarter of the 19th century, the acreage of asparagus being grown in the Vale of Evesham also increased. The L.B.G. Story (Littleton & Badsey Growers Ltd), by C. A. Binyon tells of the historical association the Vale of Evesham has with the production of asparagus. From 1925 until 1981 the Vale of Evesham Asparagus Growers Association existed for the purpose of promoting asparagus production in the area.
There is anecdotal and photographic evidence available to support the history of asparagus production in the area available from the Badsey Society (www.badsey.org.uk).
Reference to publication of the product specification
(the second subparagraph of Article 6(1) of this Regulation)
(1) OJ L 343, 14.12.2012, p. 1.