Asparagus is a great addition to any home vegetable garden. Whether you mix them in with a salad or cook them your own special way, this perennial plant will yield you a great tasting vegetable for about 10 to 15 years.
Part of the Asparagaceae family, Asparagus is one of those rare vegetables that regardless of the climate you live in (for the most part), it will produce for you every year. It is a good low calorie source for Folate and Potassium and the stalks are high in antioxidants.
Asparagus dates back to as far as 3000 B.C. to Egypt. Historians believe it was originally used as a medicine. They have also found a recipe for cooking asparagus that dates back to the third century AD.
If you are going to add it to your garden, be prepared. Asparagus takes 3 years before you can actually harvest the first stalks. So you will need to be patient.
To get your asparagus up and running start your seeds indoors about 7 weeks prior to the final frost of the season. Check a frost zone map for your area to find out what that date is. Once you reach that 7 week date you can move the asparagus plants to the outdoors and to its new permanent home.
Your asparagus plants need room so when it comes time to plant them outdoors make sure you spread them out at least eighteen inches. This gives the plants’ root system plenty of space to grow.
If possible plant them in an area that will receive at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. Although they will tolerate less than eight hours you are going to grow your asparagus for the next decade so put them where they will be happy.
Asparagus requires heavy watering and like most other vegetable plants you do not want to overwater so invest in a good 3 in 1 soil tester or moisture level tester. Between the rainfall you will receive and the watering schedule you will have, a soil moisture tester will ensure that you keep the water levels in the perfect range. As a side note, asparagus will grow much better if the soil pH range is in the 6.5 to 7.5 range.
When the third year rolls around harvest only those asparagus spears that are at least 3/8” (1 cm) in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. You can choose to use a knife or garden scissors to cut the asparagus, but the best method is to simply “break” them off.
Asparagus is best eaten as soon as it is harvested, so if you aren’t going to be consuming your asparagus anytime soon, just let them grow.
Finally, because I know it just has to be on everyone’s mind, why does urine have a distinctive odor when you eat asparagus? Come on now….you are thinking about it. There are compounds in asparagus that when metabolized give urine that odor due to various sulfur containing products. There are six of them and they are, methanethiol, dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, bismethane, dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone.
You are now ready to go and tackle asparagus. If you love the taste of this vegetable like I do, go ahead and add it to your garden. Sure it will take you 3 years before you can get your first harvest, but you will be harvesting fresh asparagus every year thereafter for at least 10 years.
About the Author
Michael C. Podlesny is the administrator for the largest Vegetable Gardening page on Facebook.