Spring has sprung and that means one thing: This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus.
Age of Asparagus.
Sorry, “Hair” was on Turner Classic Movies the other night. Gotta love that flick.
Anyway, it may seem like it’s a bit too early to start thinking about the gardening season; however, when it comes to asparagus, you’re actually coming a bit late to the party. Asparagus is spring’s first vegetable and can be planted as soon as the soil can be easily worked.
According to an article for Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, “asparagus is rich in vitamins A and B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Since it is 93 percent water, asparagus is low in calories and very low in sodium. Asparagus is a very good source of dietary fiber. When harvesting the asparagus, it is important to gather the tender young shoots. The larger and taller shoots are a woodier product. However, these older shoots should not be discarded, they can be peeled and enjoyed as well.”
Yet let’s not put the cart before the horse. Before you can harvest asparagus, you have to first plant it. The good news is that asparagus is a perennial, which means once it gets established it will keep coming back each year. It’s like the Jason Voorhees of vegetables. The bad news, according to “The Old Farmer’s Almanac,”is that asparagus can take two years to three years to truly establish itself and produce.
But you have to start somewhere, right? Why not start this year?
The best bet for success is to skip right past any attempt to grow asparagus from seeds. Instead, purchase the plant’s crowns – or dormant roots – from your local garden center. In a garden bed with good drainage, dig a trench roughly 6 inches to 8 inches deep and 12 inches to 18 inches wide. Place the asparagus crowns in the trench about 18 inches apart.
“The Old Farmer’s Almanac”indicates you can fill the trench in all at once with rich soil as long as the soil remains loose enough for the spears to push through or you can fill in the trench little by little as the plants grow. When initially planting the asparagus, cover the top of the plant with about 2 inches of soil. As the spears push through and become several inches tall, place an additional 2 inches of soil over the spears, but not covering them completely. Repeat the process until the trench is filled in.
MSU Extension said asparagus is ideal for freezing, but it recommended canning the vegetable because asparagus is low in acid. It all depends on whether or not you have a “can-do” attitude (or perhaps a “can-can” attitude for those who favor old-timey dances).
Get out there and start now. Before you know it, you’ll be singing the praises of this versatile vegetable of early spring.