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Asparagus Information

Asparagus Information

Plant Varieties:

  • Jersey Giant
    All male hybrid variety. Green spear with purple bracts. High yields. Top seller.

  • Jersey Knight
    Emerges a few days later than 'Jersey Supreme'. Green spear with purple bracts. Very cold hardy but also yields well in the south. Does very well on heavy soils.

  • Jersey Supreme
    Early variety. Has the potential to out yield 'Jersey Giant'. Spears are medium sized.

  • Mary Washington
    Mary Washington is the oldest and most well known asparagus variety in America.

  • Viking KB-3
    Viking is an open-pollinated hand-selected and improved strain on MW.

  • Purple Passion
    Burgundy colored spears with green interior. Sweeter than green asparagus. Open pollinated variety. Produces many seeds. Produces big spears, so spacing should be reduced to 8 inches between plants.

A Bit About Asparagus

Asparagus is native to the Mediterranean and has been considered a valuable food source since the time of the ancient Greeks.

Containing significant amounts of vitamins C and A, Asparagus has efficacy as a natural diuretic, blood cleanser, and reproductive hormone stimulant. In some cultures, asparagus is viewed as an aphrodisiac.

As a grower, you’ll find asparagus to be a hardy perennial, mostly requiring close care when planting and getting established, and during harvest season. But if properly planted and cared for, Asparagus beds can produce for decades.

It’s one of the first vegetables that become ready for harvest in the spring, starting in early May. Production and harvest lasts for six weeks.

For best results, 1-year crowns should be used (reduced or no transplant shock). Plant the crowns in early spring, when the ground becomes workable. Plant 10-20 inches apart in trenches 12-18 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. Spread the roots uniformly with the crown bud side up, in an upright, centered position, slightly higher than the roots. Cover roots with 1 to 2 inches of enriched soil. As the plants grow over the next months, continue to cover the roots with more soil, until the trench is now slightly mounded. Because asparagus has a tendency to rise as the plants mature; crowns gradually grow closer to the soil surface.

The female plants bear seeds, which takes away from the yield of female asparagus shoots. That’s why male hybrid plants are more valued than female; males produce thicker, larger spears because they put no energy into seeds and do not create seedlings around them. A type of asparagus that produces only male plants has created hybrid varieties such as Jersey GiantJersey KnightJersey Supreme and Viking KB3, which produce larger yields than plants previously known. These newer varieties also have the advantage of being resistant to diseases that attack asparagus, such as Fusarium, rust, and crown rot.

The female plants develop more spears or stems than the male plants, and are often seeded, but the stems are smaller in diameter. With normal open-pollinated varieties, gardeners plant both male and female plants in a ratio of 1:1. After the first year, small red berries form on the female plants in late summer. These then fall to the ground and become new plants that function almost as weeds in the asparagus bed. These can be thinned to keep the bed from becoming unruly, which limits yield. After weather has become freezing in the fall, remove asparagus tops to decrease the possibility that rust could develop on foliage during the winter.

Midsummer mulching with hay, straw, leaves or grass clippings helps control weeds and keep soil from drying out. Because asparagus is a low-growing plant, it is plagued by weeds, and the tactic of mulching, along with careful and constant removal of weeds, is necessary to keep the asparagus from being overgrown.

Asparagus can be harvested in their second year after planting, but for no more than a few weeks and no spears smaller than the size of a pencil.  This is so more energy can be devoted to developing a good root system. The plant is still expanding its root storage system and excessive removal of spears weakens the plants. After the third year, you may harvest freely from their first appearance in the spring through May or June (approximately 8 weeks).

Harvest spears when they are 5 to 8 inches in length by cutting or snapping them. To cut a spear, run a knife into the soil at the base of the spear and carefully sever it. Because the spear is cut below the point where fiber develops, it becomes necessary to remove the fibrous base from the tender stalk. Cutting may damage some spear tips that have not yet emerged from the ground. Grasp the spear near the base and bend it toward the ground. The spear breaks at the lowest point where it is free of fiber.

Asparagus deteriorates rapidly after harvest. Indeed, all vegetables and fruit are best when consumed fresh. The further away they get from having been connected to their roots and the natural system of sun energy conversion that keeps them growing, the less nutritious they are.

If you must store any variety of asparagus, treat it as you would treat a cut flower. Trim the stems and stand them in a glass with one to two inches of water. Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate; use them within two to three days.

Asparagus can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, grilled, roasted or in casseroles and salads. The key to perfectly cooked asparagus, as with almost all vegetables, is to cook as briefly as possible- heat destroys the phytonutrients that make fresh produce nutritious.

The flavor of asparagus is distinctive. The shoots can be garnished with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. When using asparagus as a salad, always wait until serving time to add the dressing as the high acid content of most dressings will turn the spears yellow. Add fresh chives, savory, thyme, and tarragon to enhance the flavor of cooked asparagus.

fresh? grilled? steamed? Asparagus.

 For more information on planting and care, read Planting Asparagus

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