April 28, 2008

Growing Asparagus In My Vegetable Garden

Every spring, I love wandering down to my asparagus patch to count how many tender asparagus are emerging from the soil.  Asparagus are edible shoots, commonly called “spears” that rise early in the spring from underground stems called “crowns.”  These perennial plants require patience and at least a few years to become a well-established patch in the garden.  I made sure that an asparagus crop was planted when I first bought this farm several years ago. 

When it comes to asparagus, there seems to be endless debate over which is better – thin spears or thick spears.  It’s widely thought that thin asparagus are tastier, based on the notion that slender spears are younger.  However, that just isn’t true because the thick spears are already thick when they poke up from the ground, and the thin spears will never get any fatter.  The two are just different varieties.  I love both kinds of asparagus, but I do find that fat stalks actually tend to be a little more succulent.

Another controversial issue regarding asparagus is that of color.  Americans like their asparagus to be bright green, whereas in Europe, white asparagus are prized.  To grow white asparagus, the farmer heaps earth on top of the emerging shoots, prolonging the underground growth.  The soil surface is then watched very carefully for the appearance of the tips because the shoots will rapidly turn green if exposed to sunlight.  It’s said that white asparagus has a more refined, slightly earthy flavor.  One thing is certain:  because more work is required to grow it, it’s also more expensive.

Here are some tender asparagus emerging from the soil in my vegetable garden.

Jodi, Erika, and George carry earthenware cloches into the asparagus patch to try an experiment.  They sure like to have fun.

Their idea is to place the cloches over the new asparagus as they poke through the ground.

The cloches are then filled with rich, composted soil in hopes that the asparagus within will be white and not green.  We’ll see if it works in a few days.

This is the same asparagus patch one week later.  Look how tall!  And let me tell you how deliciously fresh they taste!  By the way, they’re still experimenting with the cloches – I’ll keep you posted.

This is an unusual variety of asparagus called ‘Purple Passion’ – They’re really beautiful in salads.


Asparagus Recipes from Martha Stewart Living

Asparagus: Power Foods from Whole Living.com

Asparagus Gruyere Tart Recipe from Everyday Food (Watch the video!)


Everything Asparagus at Martha Stewart.com