Pickled asparagus grew out of….well, a pickle. As John Jaques, Sunshine Farms, recalls, the original NAFTA agreement translated into the loss of Ontario processing markets for asparagus. In a search of replacement markets, he and his wife Claudia found the answer in their own kitchen. Gifts of pickled asparagus to friends earned repeat requests. So popular was the product that they started their own processing facility near Thamesville, Ontario.
He’s one of 82 Ontario asparagus growers who plant the perennial for the fresh market business from May through June. In Ontario, 3,200 acres are now in production.
Only a few growers such as the Jaques family value-add. Half of their business is now comprised of pickled product. In 2000, the Jaques family earned an organic certificate for their facility. The organic pickled line is now experiencing the most growth with its clean label of no additives or preservatives. It’s a specialty product worth the search in local Ontario stores and in some national grocers.
“We’ve adapted to a whole new world,” says Jaques. “I personally like my pickled asparagus spear wrapped in smoked cheese or smoked meat as an appetizer.”