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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


This year I planted some asparagus, I'm extremely excited about it, especially as I see the shoots sprouting out of the ground.

Asparagus grows wild in Idaho, or at least it used to. It was a family tradition when my husband was growing up to go out on the highway and find wild asparagus and bring it home to eat. A friend was telling me that they had the same tradition. Her dad wanted to be able to remember where the best asparagus patches were, so he made some special stakes to mark where it was, he placed them next to each patch, but where it was also visible from the road. Then each year, the asparagus hunt was very easy, they just looked for the stakes they had placed in the ground.

If you want to plant asparagus you won't be purchasing seeds or even bulbs, you will be purchasing roots. I opened the bag and was quite surprised to find 6 jumbled root masses, not knowing what to do with them, I had to do some research on asparagus. Luckily I did, because I would not have known that you don't even get to harvest your first year. You don't harvest any spears during your plants' first year in your garden to allow the roots to grow stronger and more productive. The second year you get to pick a few that grow about the size of your index finger, only harvesting for about a week or two. The third year, pick finger-size spears for two to four weeks in the spring. In the following years, harvest to your hearts desire, take all the finger-size spears you want, quit harvesting when the spears that come up are thin and spindly.

White asparagus is very popular in Germany. I have never tried it, but it is said to be more tender, milder, and nuttier than the green version. To grow white asparagus, you simply mound soil on top of it as it grows. It must be done almost daily to prevent it from being exposed to sunlight.

Is asparagus worth the wait? I guess I will just have to wait and see.

Top image from best room in the house


Dale Johnson said...

Marisa, great article. I love asparagus. It brings back vivid childhood experiences. As a little boy, I would go with my mother (your husbands grandmother) and aunt to gather asparagus from along the roads and ditch banks in the Idaho countryside. Your friend talked about marking the locations. Well after you harvest it you always let some go to seed to strengthen the root system. When it goes to seed, it grows into beautiful 4-5 foot tall lacy bushes that eventually dry up and turn brown but last clear until the next spring. So the next spring when you are hunting for the asparagus, you just watch for the old bushes which you can see 100 yards away. My mother and aunt would always let me point out the old bushes even though I now realize that they could probably see them before I could. Our favorite asparagus dish was asparagus with boiled eggs in white sauce over toast.

Hilary said...

I planted purple asparagus (in los angeles) over the winter and it is up and ferny and beautiful. I was told to wait for three years before harvesting so it is very helpful to hear that if I get a couple of big stalks next year then I can eat them (yeah). I do have a question that relates to Dale's post... In the Winter, should I cut back the old dry asparagus or should I leave it? Thanks! Great Post!

brooklyn said...

our family used to gather wild asparagus the the orchards in orem, utah when we were little. i loved hunting for it and my favorite thing in the world was wild asparagus with hollandaise sause. yum.

AJK said...

I love you blog! Keep it up! We urban farmers need to unite! I just started on my journey and have LOTS to learn.

Dale Johnson said...

I don't think it matters whether you cut it back or leave the mature plants. I personally find them very beautiful even when they turn brown. If you cut it back, wait until it is completely brown. As long as it is green it is synthesizing energy and transfering it into the roots to strenthen them. There is always the question of how much to harvest and how much to leave to replenish the roots.

Some people will spray herbicide in the spring before the asparagus comes up to kill the weeds in the asparagus patch. If you do, cut the old stocks back in the winter and in the spring make sure the soil is covering the old stocks so that the herbicide does not go down in the stock and kill the root system.

By the way, asparagus plants are genderdized. The short fat ones are female and the tall skinny ones are male. This is true. To form seeds you have to have both. But since the plants come up from the old roots each year, the seeds are not important. So now you know about the sex life of asparagus plants.

Sheralie said...

the white asparagus i have had in germany was very tender and excellent. i have bought it here in the us and tried to cook it as tasty but without satisfaction. i am sure homegrown it will be much better.

Tea Rose said...

Awesome article! Very informative. Your pix look so tasty I may have to try my hand at asparagus next year. :-)