Saturday, May 15, 2010

Asparagus oh how I have learned to love thee..

 Asparagus was never a vegetable we ate as children; I didn't experience the taste until I met my future husband in my late twenties.  Unfortunately my first taste originated from a can; yes I can hear the shrieking from all of you, as you can imagine I was not very fond of this new vegetable.  Canned asparagus is pallid in color and rather bland, in fact, the only taste it had was the flavor of the can with the added yuck factor of being mushy.  Asparagus was off my menu for a long time after that experience and it would take a lot to convince me to give it another go. 

With much trepidation I did give it another try and this time I was overjoyed with this wonderful spring vegetable.   It was picked fresh and cooked just enough to give it that perfect crispy tenderness, seasoned with a simple dressing of balsamic vinegar, walnuts and sprinkle of pepper making it pure heaven.   I was in love with the first taste; now instead of disgust I was researching the cultivation and care so that I could start harvesting my own personal crop. 

I was excited to find that asparagus grows best in sandy, well drained loamy type soil that is heavily enriched with well rotted manure.  I had all of those things available to me and was ready to go, I checked my pH and adjusted it to the preferred level of 6.5 and dug a nice trench in a location that could be completely dedicated to this perennial crop.   I had read that most soils will support asparagus but I wanted to be sure that I got things off to a good start. 

I planted two dozen root stock plants called crowns, enough to feed our two person household, in trenches about 6-8 inches deep and spaced them about 1.5 feet apart.   I didn’t bury them deep at first and only covered them with around 2 inches of soil; I continued to add soil throughout the summer until the trenches were full.   The excitement was building but you can’t fully harvest asparagus until the third year, it is a game of patience while you wait for the root system to mature.   You can pick a few spears in the second year but I chose to wait it out and let things mature on their own.   After the third year you can begin harvesting and continue until the spears start to look thin and spindly, at that point let the plants grow. I snap off the spears close to ground level when they are approximately 6-8 inches tall and still have tight tops that haven't started to branch out.  Some people suggest using a knife to cut the spears close to the ground but then you risk damaging any surrounding spears that are just under soil level.

Newly planted asparagus needs time to mature and grow their roots into a thick mass which will send up shoots/spears that become thicker as each year comes and goes.  The thicker the stalk the better and more tender the asparagus will be, you will be handsomely rewarded for your patience.  The stalks are easily recognizable as they first emerge from the ground; you will be surprised at how they mature into tall fern like structures.   You need to let the stalks grow well into the fall as that growth sends energy down to the root which in turn helps the following year’s crop production.   Cultivate lightly around the plants in the spring, before the spears start growing to keep weeds down then use well rotted manure and mulch after cultivating, this helps feed the plants and keep the weeds in check during the growing season. 

Nutrition data for the Asparagus: (via: Nutrition Data, know what you eat)

 low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Iron, Magnesium and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Manganese and Selenium.
click here for the full report by Nutrition Data, know what you eat

1 comment:

Oybolshoi said...

I hated asparagoose for the same reason ... my mom only served that nasty canned stuff. It can actually be sucked through your front teeth if you try hard enough! Thanks for all the information about a veggie that I never thought I could love!!