Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Spiked star of Bethlehem

BATAS 0031.  What I do like is Bath asparagus.  I didn’t buy it, but a friend near Corsham [Wiltshire] collected and gave it to me once or twice [Harcombe, Lyme Regis, Dorset, May 2016].

2.  In the early 1970s Bath asparagus was sold in season in a greengrocer’s at The Balustrade, London Road, Bath.  The couple that ran it were at least in their 60s and lived in a Wiltshire village (I think Atworth) near a wood where Bath asparagus grew as profusely as bluebells.  I actually bought a bunch once to try it out.  They eventually sold the shop and I have not seen it elsewhere since.  It is conceivable it sometimes makes an appearance in one of the west Wiltshire street markets, but I doubt it because stalls are usually held by commercial growers [Bath, Somerset, May 2016].

3.  When I moved to Bath in 1979 I was introduced to Bath asparagus (spiked star of Bethlehem) and it was even sold by our local greengrocer, but I have not searched for it, or seen it on sale, for years now. Health and Safety I expect! Apparently it was introduced by the Romans [Bath, Somerset, August 2011].

Images: main, Markham Banks, Wroughton, Wiltshire, July 2024; inset, illustration from an article entitled ‘Bath Asparagus’ in the Gardener’s Chronicle, date unknown (probably late 19th century):  ‘the young flower-spikes of Ornithogalum pyrenaicum, which are largely sold in the Bath market under the above name and which form a fairly good substitute for asparagus.’