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ID #2576

A little bit about asparagus, Ficksburg, Eastern Free State.

Known 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia and cultivated in ancient Rome in 1567 BC, asparagus was first cultivated in South Africa by horticulturist Joseph Radermacher in Harrismith.  The eastern Free State and, in particular the Cherry Trail area, is now the main South African production region.  There are three canneries in the Ficksburg area alone.

With low calories and high vitamin content, asparagus contains asparagin, which purifies the system (which is why the people of the region are so hospitable!)  They are grown from a perennial crown (a member of the fern family, Asparagus officianalis) that has a long life – 15 years or more.  White spears are harvested underground in a ridge mounted over the crown to protect them from sunlight.  They are predominantly used in the canning industry. Green asparagus is reaped above ground, where the shoot has been exposed to sunlight and photosynthesised. Because of the chlorophyll it is tastier and growing in popularity. 

The season extends from September through to early December. The fern is then allowed to grow out. They reach a height of up to 1.5 meters and are a common sight along the roadside.  After frosting in winter, the stored energy in this growth is translocated back to the roots, providing the basis for the next year’s crop.  This is why cold winters make for a good asparagus-producing region.

With thousands of Ha under cultivation, asparagus is an important crop in the region and provides seasonal employment for 25000 harvesters, many from as far away as the Transkei.  4200 tons is produced annually, with green limited to below 100 tons.  Exports amount to 1000 tons, the bulk of which is canned.

Fisksburg is on the R70 southeast of Ventersburg, which is on the N1 north of Winburg, which is at the intersection of the N1 with the N5. Travel southeast on the R70 from Ventersburg via Senekal to Ficksburg. BHAlittle

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Last update: 2014-05-12 16:32
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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