Oh how I adore when I see those little asparaguses (asparagi?) poking their pointy heads through the soil in my garden. Who doesn’t love this tasty little tree of spearrific deliciousness? No one, that’s who!
And the best part about this happy-looking and scrumptious-tasting vegetable? Well, for many people it grows as a perennial. That’s right—no need to replant year after year, it just keeps on comin’ back. To that I say: sign me up.
Many gardening websites and experts note that asparagus is picky about where it sets its roots—it needs a deep bed and hates weed competition especially. That’s probably true, though I haven’t had too much trouble with my pair of plants, now about 5 years old, and I pretty much neglect them completely (though I did take the time to dig kinda deep and amend with compost when I first planted them). The only trick to remember is that, after planting a seedling (known as a “crown”), you shouldn’t harvest any spears for the first couple/few years.
Practice patience, I know it’s hard. But after that, snap away, though try to limit yourself to only those spears that are thicker than, say, a no. 2 pencil. You can harvest for a few weeks—do it daily—and then stop and let the spears grow up nice and tall (they can reach 5 to 6 inches). Watch them burst out into pretty airy fronds, which are especially pretty in rain and snow and ice (when they become one of my favorite photographic subjects.) I cut mine to the ground in very early spring (around March in these parts) because I like the frondiness for winter interest and garden structure.
Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this plant. You can even treat this edible like an ornamental—it plays nicely in masses of other perennials, just like a grass or sedge would. So don’t be afraid, tuck it in everywhere you can. You won’t be disappointed. And you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.
For more detailed information on planting and caring for asparagus, see the ever-helpful Gardener’s Supply Company website here. Or pick up a copy of Barbara Damrosch’s Garden Primer or an old Crockett’s Victory Garden, my two gardening bibles. The former is updated pretty regularly; the latter is out of print but will never go out of style.
Wondering what to do with your plants once you pick ’em? For a fast-n-filling breakfast, I love dipping spears into a yolky soft-boiled egg. That with a side of buttered whole grain bread . . . ahhhhheaven. What a way to start the day. Of course, you can also simply parboil a bunch of spears in salted water, dress with homemade vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dash of Dijon mustard, m’mm), and proceed to eat them with your fingers. Perfect picnic fare.
So three cheers for the green spears! Get to planting some asparagus—the time is ripe!