By Karen Cohen
After an afternoon of research, I learned a ton about self propagating asparagus. I decided to order purple asparagus online this winter for my spring garden. Join me now in reviewing some fact based revelations.
Asparagus come in 3 colors: green, purple, and white. Purple contains the highest amounts of antioxidants, green next in line, and white have the lowest levels. Eaten raw, asparagus can be added to salads adding a distinct crunch. I cook cleaned asparagus in salted water in a pan and when they are fork tender, lift them out with a slotted spoon and serve as is with a splash of lemon, dash of salt and pepper. Very simple and the flavor sings. The acid in this veggie after it goes through your system has an asparagus smell released in one’s urine but the benefits of eating asparagus override this little trait.
Most folks prefer to grow asparagus from crown roots rather than seeds. Seeds take too long and crown roots are (almost), guaranteed to grow. When buying asparagus crowns, about 8 crowns per consumer will be plenty. In a clean, weed free garden bed, create a 12” wide, hand dug trench about 8 inches deep to place your crowns into with the roots facing down. Plant each crown about one foot apart from the next. Top with 3” of loamy soil and water once a week to establish them. All trenches should be a foot apart. Asparagus want full sun, well-drained soil, and no fertilizer or wood chips for the first few years. Don’t pick any spears in their first year; allow the crowns to grow bigger underground. Asparagus spreads slowly and will fill in the blank spaces over time. These perennials can last for well over 15 years. Keep their patch free of any other plantings including weeds and you will have success in raising delicious, tender asparagus year after year.
An old wives’ tale is to sprinkle some plain table salt over your asparagus bed to kill the weeds and help the asparagus to grow. You can water the entire bed with lightly salted water to accomplish the same trick. One treatment of this is enough. A very important tip in the early growing stage is not to allow any asparagus spears to grow top ferns because that’s what feeds the asparagus beetles. These bugs are black, white, and red, are easy to hand remove and then drop into soapy water to kill them.
Be sure to snap off or cut all asparagus spears near the base when 6-10 inches tall in their second year for eating. Longer stalks become tough and woody. In the spring, spear tips fresh out of the ground are yummy raw. They will grow quickly as the soil warms up. Harvest usually ends by July. Let the plant grow a ferny top in the fall, that helps them to store energy back into the root as they die down for the fall and winter.
A good companion plant with asparagus is strawberries. First put in your asparagus crowns, top off with a bit of soil, then add your strawberries plants along the perimeter of your bed. Don’t bury the strawberry plants, they will dig in on their own. There is no need to mulch this area at all.
The health benefits of asparagus are many. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, they are also rich in antioxidants. 0% fat, 0% carbs, 0% cholesterol, and 32 mg potassium. Asparagus can help with weight loss/maintenance. Just four asparagus contain 22% of the daily recommended allowance of folic acid, very beneficial for pregnancy. Add a few spears to your morning breakfast with eggs= fiber and protein.
Soups are great in the cold winter months; put creamed asparagus soup on your to do list. Easy and delicious, here’s a recipe I use.
- In lightly salted water, cook 2 lbs of medium asparagus, cut in half, till fork tender. Save this water for the broth.
- Melt unsalted butter in a pan.
- Dice onion or chopped leeks, one carrot, one celery stalk, and one small diced potato. Drop in one bay leaf and saute them together till tender. Optional: 1 tbsp of dry white vermouth.
- Remove and discard the bay leaf and put the cooked mixture in a blender with a few parsley sprigs, ½ cup heavy cream (optional), 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese, and a few cups of the salted water.
- Taste it. If you desire a deeper flavor, you can add chicken broth in place of water. Blend it all till you have the creamy consistency you like, add more broth if needed.
- Reheat this and serve.
Tip: I place a small chunk of french bread in a bowl and pour the soup on top, let it soak in and then dive into this green splendor.
(Karen Cohen is an organic gardener and loves to share recipes, seeds and tips. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy gardening!)