Østby farm

by admin on 18/05/2009


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Think of the words sexy, sensual, bliss, sun, crispness, juiciness, sourishness, spring, fresh, enjoyment, happiness and revelation. Then put all these words into one single word. For me, this was very simple since it was a vegetable I ate at 2.32 pm on Monday 18 May. A fresh, green asparagus straight from the field. No more, no less.

I was standing in the asparagus field of Mr. Trygve Tvedten at Oestby farm. The farm is located in the county Vestfold in the vicinity of a town called Larvik in the commune of Tjoelling. Trygve broke off some asparagus and gave some to me. Taste these, he said. Asparagus hasn’t been the same after this sunny day in May 2009. I remembered an episode with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at his farm River Cottage when he just went away on his moped in order to get fresh, newly picked asparagus for his spring party. Just showing off and a waste of time, I thought at the time, but fully understandable today. Trygve at Oestby farm adds:

Asparagus should be picked before sunrise and be eaten before sunset.

Fresh asparagus

Fresh asparagus is best in the first hours after picking before the taste starts deteriorating. Norwegians ate 1300 tons of asparagus in 2008 of which asparagus produced in Norway amounted to only 2% of it. We ate, on the average, a half bundle of asparagus each, which probably had originated in Chile or Spain. By storing asparagus correctly, its shelf life is about 2 weeks. I wonder how fresh an asparagus from Chile can be in the best case. Trygve’s reply: If we imagine that the asparagus in Chile is picked on a Monday, being brought by plane to Amsterdam on Tuesday, being freighted by trailer to the wholesaler on Wednesday mean that the asparagus may be in the shops on Thursday. A more realistic time schedule would add one or two days. Finally, how the asparagus is stored in the shop is also of prime importance.

Quality of asparagus

If you have access to Norwegian asparagus, just buy it. It’s an exclusive seasonal enjoyment at springtime which only lasts until the end of June, while the rest of the year asparagus is being imported. So, what should we look for in order to find a tasty asparagus? According to Trygve: An asparagus should have a tight, closed head, it should not have opened nor sprouted. The shape should be even, fine and it should not have started to dry out. At Oestby farm, asparagus is sorted and cut in constant pieces of length before being divided into 5 different qualities where the diametre of the stem is the main measure of quality. That is, asparagus whose diametre ranges from 8-12 mm is put in one box, asparagus whose diametre ranging from 12 to 16 mm is put in another one, and so on.

Marketing of asparagus

Trygve has understood what marketing is all about. That is, selling the taste, the experience and the enjoyment and let the grapevine do the rest. Oestby farm has received pupils, cooks and journalists, among others. First, Trygve talks about asparagus before letting the visitors have a taste. Everyone leaves his farm smiling with their taste-buds in high tension. Then, they tell other people about their experience, like I’m doing now.

If you want to grow your own asparagus, you can a look at this article.

Here’s a recipe called Pan roasted white asparagus à la flamande.

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