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Stalking asparagus

April 7, 2010 - Kathie Evanoff

I saw my first asparagus.

I was nosing around in the asparagus bed, pushing aside the remains of last year’s dead stalks while contemplating putting up a small fence to keep the dogs from using that garden as a pathway around the main garden’s fence, when there it was; a short, but sturdy spear poking up above the soil line not more than three inches.

I was prompted to check out the rest of the more than 20 plants I put in the ground two years ago and sure enough, close to the crown on nearly all of the plants was an asparagus spear starting to sprout. Some were thinner than pencils while others were thick as my little finger.

The discovery prompted me to pull out the weeds that were trying to crowd the asparagus crowns and to dig a trench around the garden to keep more yard weeds from intruding. In a few days, I’ll be covering the entire bed with a layer of mushroom compost and will begin steeping compost tea to feed the stalks when I decide to let them grow into the ferny trees that will feed the crowns for next year’s crop.

Counting the year I planted the crowns as their first year of growth, and last year as their second, this will be the third year for the asparagus garden. That means I should be able to harvest spears for not more than two weeks before letting what comes after grow tall over the rest of the season.

What many people don’t’ know is that asparagus spears are the plant. If left to grow, they grow into tall stems that branch out from which grow soft, green plumes. With this particular vegetable, we don’t eat the fruit, nor is there an underground tuber or swollen stem. We eat the stalk while it is still young and tender, barely out of the ground.

If we ate all of the stalks, there would be nothing left to feed the crowns for next season, so although asparagus is one of the first vegetables to be ready to harvest in spring, its season is short-lived.

As I said, my young plants only can be harvested for two weeks this year. Next year I’ll cut the stems off at ground level for three weeks, and four weeks the following year.

The max is six weeks. Once enough time has passed allowing me to harvest for six weeks, I won’t increase it any further in subsequent seasons.
I saw my first asparagus and instantly began visualizing steamed spears with an herbal butter sauce; bacon-wrapped asparagus bundles on the grill; chopped asparagus with scrambled eggs.

I am the only person in my household who eats asparagus, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.



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