In Belgium “Convergence of greenhouse and early open-field asparagus make for acceptable prices leading up to Easter” by FreshPlaza

Early asparagus and cherries at Amelinckx Fruit

“Convergence of greenhouse and early open-field asparagus make for acceptable prices leading up to Easter”

In Belgium, the first open-field asparagus has been harvested, and according to Katrien De Backer, they have arrived just in time for Easter. “Greenhouse asparagus are still in full swing. That, and the limited open-field volumes, ensures there’s currently no price spike, making restaurants keen to start offering asparagus,” she explains. Katrien’s parents and uncle, Jos Amelinckx, run the Amelinckx fruit company, and she, too, is active in the fruit and vegetable trade.

White asparagus ridges

The cultivation company harvested its first asparagus on March 20th. “That’s unusually early. I delved into the past, and it’s happened only once before that we harvested this early from the open field. That’s 26 years ago, and we managed to harvest the first asparagus on March 19th, making the news. That’s one day earlier than now, but it remains a rarity, which coincides perfectly with this year’s early Easter. In the run-up to Easter, restaurants decide what they want to put on their menu.”

“The earlier Easter is, the longer the season. If Easter falls a month later, asparagus purchases are delayed by a month, too. Then, there’s much less demand in the first month. Also, we now have the advantage of not having to work with extreme prices of around €22. If the purchase price goes too high, menus are no longer attractive because consumers won’t pay that. Current prices are acceptable,” says Katrien.

“That’s mainly because there’s enough volume on the market due to the combination of greenhouse and open-field cultivation. However, it hasn’t reached 20°C yet, so open-field volumes are still limited. These are nice volumes everyone can work with. That’s noticeable not only with the traditional white ‘queen’ but also with green asparagus that’s arriving. These have become increasingly popular as a kind of fast food among young people in recent years. You don’t need to peel them; just grill them. That makes them very popular these days.”

First green asparagus of 2024

“The quality is beautiful, too. Asparagus are 98% water, so when it can draw enough moisture, which has been plentiful recently, you get a delicious asparagus. If they’re too dry, they can be fibrous. That, though, won’t be a problem with the new harvest,” Katrien assures us.

Early cherries
In addition to asparagus cultivation, the company also has cherry trees, which, too, are heading for an early harvest. They grow eight varieties: Nimba, Samba pollinator, Kordia, Merchant Noire, Areko, Carmen, Starblush ‘Whitebelly’, and Papillon ‘Whitebelly’. “The first trees are already in bloom. We’re about 14 days ahead of last year. It’s honestly quite strange.”

“We had a gloomy, wet winter, but still, the cherries bloomed quicker than during a dry winter. I can’t explain it. Perhaps it’s because there were few freezing days, just light frost. It remains to be seen if it freezes. This week, for example, was around 0°C with frozen car windows. That could cause some problems, but once the fruit has set, frost isn’t such an issue,” says De Backer.

The company is, thus, looking to harvest around the third week of May. “We’ve deliberately chosen early varieties, like Nimba. They’re nicely protected, and for now, we’re keeping the greenhouse temperatures as high as possible. We also ensure the trees remain moist during flowering. We spray them regularly so the pollen sticks to the bees for optimal fertilization. If we can manage that, we should get off to a good start.”

Cherry blossoms

There’s another reason why Amelinckx is excited about this early blooming. “Everyone always eagerly awaits those first blooms. Not just locally, but in the heart of Limburg, the fruit region, 40% of the pears are already open, and the apple trees are ready to bloom. That’s perfect for the Easter vacation starting Monday. It looks beautiful and is a fun way to welcome visitors to the orchards. We invite everyone; the more, the merrier. That’s what a staycation is all about. Nothing beats that. Much can still happen, but it looks like we’re off to another early start,” concludes Katrien.

For more information:
Amelinckx Asparagus & Fruit
171 Koningin Astridlaan
2880 Hingene, Belgium
Tel.: +32 (0) 475 269 915