This week we’re pretty excited to have not one, but two new-season surprises for you – asparagus AND capsicum. Spring is a funny time in the growing calendar – whilst there’s heaps of green growth and flowers to be seen, there’s not much that’s actually ready to eat, hence the term the “hunger gap”. This is largely down to the reproductive cycle of plants – create leaves and flowers in spring, seeds (i.e. fruit, nuts, peas) in summer, and use the warm weather to store carbohydrates in the root system for the winter months (e.g. potatoes, parsnips and other root vegetables) before at least partially shutting down to survive the cold – or in the case of annuals, just dying off after generating and distributing seeds. As we tend to not eat flowers (the one obvious exception being globe artichokes), this means that during spring most of what’s available is green leafy vegetables.
Asparagus is no different – it dies back in the winter, then sends up shoots in spring as the sun comes out, which left to their own devices turn into little bushes which will flower, go to seed and then die back for the winter. These spring shoots grow extremely quickly and start to “fern up” within as little as a day or so, so to get tender, juicy asparagus spears without tough stems and open buds it’s a race against time to cut off the shoots as they pop up. Harvesting asparagus is a full time job!
Capsicum, on the other hand, like eggplant and tomatoes, is a summer fruit that’s tricked into fruiting early by growing it in heated glass houses. Hothouse plants are started off much earlier than you would normally try to grow them outdoors – they’re actually planted pretty much as soon as the previous season finishes, and transplanted to the larger hothouses once they achieve the required size.