IT HAS long been known for its health benefits.
Some even swear by asparagus as an aphrodisiac to pep up their flagging love lives.
Now, award-winning grower Matthew Rawson wants to turn people on to the benefits of eating the healthy vegetable.
He is East Yorkshire's first commercial grower of asparagus and is celebrating the start of British Asparagus Week today.
The grower has teamed up with café owner Nikki Clappison to cook up tasty ways of eating the vegetable for the celebration.
Mr Rawson, 33, of Pasture Farm, Kilham, near Driffield, said: "Asparagus goes way back thousands of years to ancient Egyptian times.
"It has been eaten in this country for a long time but it is only in the past 20 years that there has been a serious acreage for it to be grown commercially.
"Now, it is growing in popularity all the time and is one of the few crops where UK demand for home-grown asparagus is outstripping supply."
Mr Rawson became interested in asparagus through his work as an adviser to other vegetable growers.
He is director of MRR Vegetable Agronomy and now grows 17 acres of asparagus to produce around 30 tonnes of the valuable crop a year.
Mr Rawson said: "My advisory work takes me around the country and abroad and I noticed asparagus being grown in Holland on land similar to what we have on the farm.
"In 2008, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and backed myself to grow the crop on the family farm in Kilham.
"It took two years for the crop to establish but now we supply supermarket chain Waitrose and local farm shops and restaurants.
"The move is starting to pay off and it has also strengthened my portfolio as a vegetable grower."
Mr Rawson recently won the Young Grower of the Year, which is sponsored by supermarket giant Asda and the National Farmers' Union.
He is the only commercial grower of asparagus in East Yorkshire and the biggest producer of the crop in Yorkshire.
The asparagus season traditionally starts on St George's Day, April 23, and ends on Midsummer's Day, June 21.
Mr Rawson said: "British Asparagus Week is a great time for people who have never tasted the vegetable before to give it a try.
"It is rich in vitamins and minerals, low in calories and contains no cholesterol or fat, and is a really healthy food.
"I am delighted to be teaming up with Nikki, who will be serving up innovative and tasty asparagus dishes throughout the week."
Farming is in the blood of Nikki Clappison, owner of the Barn House Guesthouse and Café in Walkington.
Her family have farmed in the Beverley area for generations and are one of the biggest growers of sprouts in the country.
Nikki said: "I am keen to support the field-to-plate initiative, which is part of British Asparagus Week.
"Most people recognise green vegetables provide many health benefits. However, a lack of inspiration for cooking them in different ways means they are not enjoyed as much as they could be.
"This is particularly so with asparagus, so we have created some new recipes for the vegetable and will be offering them in our café throughout the week."
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Repeats: Every Day until Sunday, April 29, 2012
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