Despite growing up on a Carnarvon farm where his family grew green asparagus, Markum Boston did not expect to venture into agriculture.
- White asparagus is being grown in Carnarvon
- Its season is from September to December
- The white asparagus is used in sweet and savoury dishes
He returned to his home town, about 900km north of Perth, in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the tourism sector he was working in, and decided to have a go with white asparagus.
“I love green asparagus, I love asparagus flavour,” Mr Boston said.
“The only way I can compare [white with green asparagus] would be it just tastes sweeter.”
Mr Boston’s partner, CJ Lamb, said they were having fun experimenting with it in the kitchen as white asparagus could be used whole or ground into flour.
“It’s such a versatile ingredient, you can make anything with it,” Ms Lamb said.
“We had it as the flour for the pasta the other night, and we made white asparagus ice cream.”
Plastic tunnels cover the crop to stop sunlight coming through, which would lead the plant to produce chlorophyll and turn green.
The produce is trucked down to Perth and is being used in high-end restaurants and sold in supermarkets.
Mr Boston said there was a bit of trial and error in the development of his crop.
“I really love the idea of just trying something different,” he said.
“I think by trial 21, we actually got a success.”
He received a $26,000 Rural Economic Development grant to help with the finessing.
A gap in the market
Most of Australia’s asparagus is grown in Victoria, with only about 1 per cent grown in WA.
White asparagus only makes up a very small proportion of that.
Mr Boston said white asparagus had opened up a new opportunity.
“September through December, Oktoberfest to Christmas is white asparagus time for us,” he said.
“It’s the time of the year that everyone else in the rest of Australia being majority down south, Victoria and such, even WA, the big asparagus growers are flooding the market with green asparagus.
“Traditionally for our farm here, it’s been four months of the year that you can’t really make any money with green asparagus.”
Growing white asparagus is more labour-intensive than green, fetching a higher market price, but it is seen as a niche ingredient at the moment in Australia and even enjoying popularity in some European countries such as Germany.
“There’s some really fantastic industry in Carnarvon and I figured maybe I’ll forge my own way and invent a new industry, and it’s fun at the end of the day. We’re building it slowly,” he said.
Mr Boston said the asparagus was flood and wind-resistant, but still had some challenges.
“I think that it will be a game changer next year when we build these mobile domes that will cover 10 rows at a time,” he said.
“At the moment we’re doing individual rows, so it’s very labour intensive.”