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Springing forward

March 21, 2010 - Kathie Evanoff

I am looking forward to April.


My father in law used to tell me “don’t wish your life away,” and while I know I should be working on today, I can’t help but think about what might be going on a month from now.


The reason I’m excited about April is because some crops in the greenhouse garden will be ready for harvest and there is a good possibility I’m going to get asparagus this year.


It’s been a long time since I’ve grown asparagus. I had a small plot many years ago, but when the husband and the kids wouldn’t go near asparagus with a 10-foot pole, I grew disappointed and gave it up.


And then a couple of years ago, I decided so what if no one else will eat it but me? I like asparagus and I want to grow it. So I bought enough plants to get started and dug out a trench alongside the vegetable garden fence just for them.


Everyone who has grown asparagus knows they aren’t like other vegetables. Asparagus are probably one of the few perennial vegetables there are (rhubarb is another if you’re trying to think of one right now), and unlike other garden vegetables, you can’t just stick them in the ground and expect to be eating asparagus in a month or two.


Asparagus spears are only available to eat fresh in early spring. They are probably the earliest of all vegetables, not counting those planted in greenhouse gardens (or cold frames), that is. And what’s more, you can’t have them all. Asparagus season is determined by the age of the plants, allowing you to harvest them a week or so longer each season until by the third or fourth year from planting, you may be able to go six weeks before you simply have to ignore those spears and let them grow into the small ferny tree-like plants that will feed the roots for next year’s harvest. That’s just the way it is.


Sure you can go to the mega-mart and buy asparagus that has been shipped from Ecuador, but why? During asparagus season, you have to harvest daily and that can add up to a lot of asparagus. For one person, that means I’ll likely have plenty to blanch and freeze for long after asparagus season has gone.


Newly planted asparagus, like mine, takes about two or three years to really get going. Until then, you just have to let it be asparagus in the garden without harvesting. Last year I was tempted to pluck off a few of the pencil-sized spears, but I resisted. This year, however, I’m excited to see what will be emerging from the ground next month.


By then, the spinach, lettuce and radishes I planted in the green house will be tall and tender enough to begin harvesting as well as tiny beet greens. I’m already planning my spring harvest menus.


There are stir fries and vegetable pizza in my future.


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