Long before the choicest restaurants in Spain serve their succulent asparagus, Carlos Camenes offers rock and roll To a very wide audience. He had come to his hometown of Vilhena to hold a Motörhead concert. He also took “the peoples of Extremadura, Los Rodríguez, Sabina and many others”, he recalls, among the Alicante territories that he had inherited from his father. Behind him, his wife, Isabel, and four other workers move skilfully between weeds, drip-irrigated rubber, and asparagus. They pick, cut, and assemble and in less than 24 hours the precious vegetables will be at their destination.
“Try, try,” Camness proposes as he picks up a narrow stem that ends in a tiny head, nothing to do with the brilliant and plush green asparagus that grows right next to it. or the more stylish purple ones, which grow. A little further there. “These are asparagus. Doesn’t the flavor explode in your mouth with intensity and subtlety at the same time?” asks the 51-year-old farmer, who turned his life upside down when he decided to continue his father’s work.
Tender, juicy, and of various colors, asparagus is the flagship product of the Green Asparagus family business run by the Camnesses and which already devotes practically all of its production to supplying restaurants. It takes two to three hours to collect one kilo and costs 100 euros. Award-winning restaurants such as DiverXO, Ricard Camarena, and Ramón Freixa, among others, serve this delicacy that the owners recommend eating raw or barely cooked, for example, with a fried egg, and a bit of oil. which was previously taken on “Taste”. Of garlic cloves”.
“Let’s say Shatavari, which we have registered, sets us apart at the top. We left the asparagus in part of the field to pick mini asparagus,” explains these immature bracts (the leaf that grows from the flower stalk) of the asparagus plant, which they eat while waiting for these new ones to emerge. buds. The recent success story of the family business is linked to them. But not only this. Also changes in temperature and especially clay-lime soil, rich in minerals, hard, and compact, make asparagus It is forced to fight to emerge. Not surprisingly, one of the asparagus cultivars is nicknamed Heroic for being born and growing in these conditions, which in the farmer’s opinion gives its beans character and flavor. It has low production but is grown very carefully, without synthetic fertilizers, allowing some perceived weeds to grow around it.
“Here, in the hillside plantation, asparagus coexists with thyme and rosemary. It can’t be bad, right?” explains Camenes, as he adjusts the visor of his hat and gazes beyond the field, perhaps at the distant profile of Villena castle, along with the nearby vertical landmarks of the field. Another slightly larger new AVE station. The inland city of Alicante has for some years been synonymous with quality green asparagus. It does not compete with Granada or Guadalajara, traditionally producing regions, in quantity but in quality Navara is dominated by white asparagus (the young stem growing inside the ground and not yet leafed out).
The direct route of the trains momentarily breaks the calm of the drought-stricken countryside. “And asparagus needs moisture to grow,” says Camnes, worried under the intense heat of this last Tuesday of summer. The tracks split the family’s land, a word the farmer repeats in his conversation. “Family is the basis of everything; Without my wife, for example, this wouldn’t be possible”, he says before introducing his daughter Judith, who is dedicated to sending boxes of asparagus, and his son Marcos, who listens to the “Geordie Wilde Podcast”. collects . . , and his sister-in-law Ana.
After giving up his career as a music promoter, Camness ran a family restaurant which soon gained a reputation in the city. The financial crisis of 2008 forced him to rethink his life and his father’s death finally convinced him to continue the legacy, innovate and dedicate himself to agriculture, which he had always loved. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic provided an unexpected opportunity to publicize their products. “The chefs were locked in their homes and I sent them boxes of my asparagus and they were very successful,” he explains.
Crucial was the help of Alicante chef and friend Daniel Friis, who bet on his two establishments (La Areta and Santabar) for his vegetables, highlighting the farmer himself. The cook confirms this and looks back: “One day he invited us to see the harvest. I made a lot of their asparagus, especially on the grill. Driving through the countryside, we saw those little asparagus tips that are even better and taste like tear peas that sell for 300 euros a kilo and I asked them to price them up”. “And I didn’t know what to put on it, but it’s indeed rare and there’s a lot of work behind it,” recalls Farmer. Soon, they were taken from their hands.
Camness cultivates only two short campaigns: from March to June and also in September. And while others turn the plants at seven years to make them more productive, he keeps them until they are ten years old. He assures that he is not obsessed with getting more production but a better product. He also keeps a field of olive trees for their benefit, because his father planted them. The same guy who started making asparagus “so hard-ground it could be called anti-asparagus,” adds Son, who now hangs out with famous chefs in Villena, as he hangs out with famous rock musicians. used to do.