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Albaragus, the west of Scotland asparagus that beat the weather

THEY said it couldn't be done, but two young farmers from Renfrewshire have finally proven it's possible to grow asparagus in the west of Scotland.

The first-ever daily deliveries of the delicacy, whose fragile spears grow for just six weeks every spring, are currently being made to restaurants in Paisley, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Farmer Robert Ritchie of Bishopton, 37, last year formed a business partnership with 41-year-old James Mackie of neighbouring Barnhill Farm, Inchinnan, to plant 30,000 asparagus crowns on three acres of south-facing land to see what would happen. Asparagus needs well-draining soil and doesn't like the rain, which is why British asparagus is more commonly grown in the north and east of Scotland, and in southern England. Out of the season, the crop is imported from Peru.

To the pair's delight, their first harvest has thrived on the south-facing elevated field they chose.

Now the pair are harvesting hundreds of upright spears of Barnhill Asparagus every evening until 10pm for a 5am delivery through Mackie's marketing and distribution company Fresh Direct, based in the field next door. They expect to harvest three tonnes between now and June 21.

"We are delighted with the response to our first harvest, and plan to expand the growing area next year," said Ritchie. "It's grown so close by, local chefs can have it on their menus less than 24 hours after it's been harvested.

"Its freshness is where our asparagus has the advantage over any other variety."

Chefs were quick to respond to the news of the new West of Scotland asparagus, which has been trademarked Albaragus. It's on menus on the Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow, Cardosi's in Paisley, Turnberry Hotel, Ayrshire, and L'Escargot Bleu and the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh.

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