Tesco has won the race to stock the first home-grown asparagus - weeks before the main UK season gets under way.

The supermarket last week began stocking asparagus in its Evesham store, although only limited quantities are available at this stage. The grower, S&A Davies, is one of a small number of producers who have adopted underground heating technology to extend the season beyond the May/June growing period.

Asparagus has been one of the success stories of the fresh produce aisles in recent years, and its popularity continued to grow in 2008 with 4.3% value and 8.3% volume growth [Nielsen 52w/e 22 November]. The category is now worth £56m.

Outside the UK season most asparagus is imported from Peru, though smaller quantities are available from Spain. Last year's UK crop was down on 2007's record output as a result of heavy rainfall but producers are expecting a larger crop this time around, said Ross Baker of the British asparagus campaign. "Every year demand for UK asparagus outstrips supply, but with increased acreage going in our ultimate goal is to keep imports out during May and early June."