Asparagus crops recover from early frost scare

Farmers had their first scare after a stretch of warm weather in March that led to an early growth destroyed by frost.

Cooler April and May expected to slow first larger asparagus harvest

In southwestern Ontario, where much of Canada's asparagus is grown, cooler-than-normal spring temperatures have slowed production. ((Larry Crowe/Associated Press))

Southern Ontario's cool spring is expected to slow asparagus production throughout the region.

Farmers had their first scare after a stretch of warm weather in March led to an early growth. That type of early start is often threatened by cold snaps, which then ruin any growth, explained Bernie Solymar, executive director of Asparagus Farmers of Ontario.

"The crowns started producing buds and we started seeing spears coming above ground. It was a little too early," he said. "Frost then turns those spears to mush."

An estimated 85 farmers in the province managed to continue growing, even after a couple bouts of frost, but cool temperatures in April and May have slowed overall production on about 3,400 acres of asparagus farms.

"I don't think we're too far behind," Solymar said. "The big worry now is it's going to get cool again next week and that's going to slow the asparagus down."

Some of Ontario's asparagus has already been hitting farmer's markets and roadside stands, but larger crops won't hit retailers shelves just yet.

"The most serious harvest just started this week," Solymar said, still worried about the cooler-than-expected weather forecast for next week. "Instead of cutting every day, farmers will cut every two or three days."

Norfolk and Elgin County have the bulk of Ontario's asparagus farms, but there are others located in Chatham-Kent, Waterloo and in Essex County.