A FARM has donated hundreds of bundles of asparagus to NHS hospitals.

The asparagus season is almost over at South Brockwells Farm in Little Horsted, near Uckfield with farmers are making the final harvest this week.

Since the first spears began bursting up in April, the farm has handed a delicious 300 bundles to frontline healthcare workers in Sussex.

The idea started with a suggestion from a couple using the farm’s delivery-box service for vulnerable people in isolation amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Argus:

The customers, known only as Mr and Mrs Millar from Isfield, asked if the farm would consider delivering some of its prized asparagus to Uckfield Hospital.

They made a generous donation, the farm added 25 per cent on top and began shipping out the spears.

Farmer Sarah Robinson said: “It’s been really well received by hospitals and customers alike.

“We’ve delivered to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, Uckfield Hospital, The Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath and the Martlets Hospice in Hove.

“Each box comes with a note from our customers saying thank you to the NHS staff on the front line and now, we’ve sent 300 bundles.”

The farm has been run by the same family for 44 years.

Sarah, her sister Chrissy Wells, along with her husband Arron, are following in the footsteps of their father, farmer David Douglas, who retired last year aged 80.

Sarah told The Argus the best way to eat asparagus is on the barbecue.

“It’s best served without too much adornment”, she said.

“Less is more. We’ve got such a lovely crop. It’s very sweet. It should be eaten simply, at its best.

“I like it griddled on the barbecue so you can see the scorch marks.”

Otherwise, she suggests steaming the spears until they turn pea green and eating them with a knob of butter, hollandaise sauce, parmesan or roasted with cherry tomatoes.

This year has been very strange for asparagus farmers.

The green spears shot up two weeks ahead of schedule and took everyone by surprise.

The asparagus is cut by hand, early in the morning while it is still cool. It’s taken to the shop, washed and graded by spear width and quality. The ends are chopped off and the bundles are put together just hours after being fetched from the field.

It takes three years before farmers begin to see a crop from their asparagus plants.

Sarah said that on a perfect summer’s day, the spears can shoot up five or six inches in 24 hours.

“In the right conditions, you can almost see it grow,” she said. “If you’re out in the morning and come back by evening, you’ll notice. We sometimes have to cut it twice a day.

“A massive harvest can build up in a few days and there’s just shedloads of it.

“But it’s a very fickle crop and it’s hard work to get right.”

There was a point earlier this year when it was unclear whether South Brockwells would be able to grow it at all.

In March, farmers had been busy harrowing between the rows of asparagus to keep the weeds at bay.

The weather had been unkind and they had no idea what the crop would look like.

They said they would have to “wait and see what mother nature brings”.

They were in luck – and wanted to share their mouthwatering success with the health workers keeping us safe.