Asparagus time seems to have come early this year. Luckily the patch was sprayed with Roundup just before the first spears emerged. Now we have a weed-free asparagus bed, and the spears emerge quite quickly with this bit of sun.
We like asparagus steamed for 10 minutes then topped with a poached egg. Out to supper last night, we had asparagus wrapped with bacon and grilled – delicious! My other favourite is asparagus quiche – but that takes a bit more time!
Spring care of the asparagus bed involves weeding and feeding.
- spray the asparagus bed with glyphosate (Roundup) in early spring (as long as no asparagus have emerged).
- after a few days, when all weeds are dead, cover the bed with mulch to stop more weeds growing.
- keep the bed weed free by hand weeding – do not hoe because asparagus are shallow rooting.
- Feed asparagus with a general purpose fertiliser in mid-March
Giving the asparagus bed proper care in the spring will allow the asparagus to fruit to its full potential.
When the asparagus fern turns yellow, it is time to tidy up the Asparagus bed. The asparagus fern should be left on the plant if it is still green, as it is still feeding the asparagus crowns.
When the fern has turned yellowy-brown from the base upwards, it is time for it to go.
- The ferns are cut down to the base
- Cart the cut stems away to the compost heap
- Clearing it all away will reduce the risk of carrying over disease to next year
- Apply a mulch of well-rotted manure to the cleared bed
Click this link to buy some spring planting asparagus crowns.
The mild autumn means that the annual tidy up of the asparagus bed will be later than normal.
To grow good Asparagus the soil needs to be:
- well drained – so your light soil is ideal here
- with water holding capacity – add well rotted farm yard manure – this will provide nutrients as well as hold on to the water
- pH of 6.5 to 7.5 – add lime if too acidic
- good depth – used to be grown in mounds (beds), but raised deep beds are ideal
Asparagus beds stay down for 15 or 20 years, so it is worth getting the soil right before you start.
The end of the asparagus season has come – so summer should be better advanced than it is turning out to be – is this climate change?
Stop harvesting asparagus in mid-June to allow the plant to build up its energy for next year – that is why it is the end of the asparagus season.
How To Grow Asparagus
Asparagus are grown in beds which stay down for many years. Asparagus are usually grown from crowns.
A crown is the root system of a one-year-old asparagus plant that is grown from seed. Buy healthy, disease-free crowns from a reputable crown grower.
Asparagus prefer a site which is:
- free draining
Asparagus plants live for about 15 years, so need a permanent site, which is not in the way.
- remove weeds
- dig in plenty of well rotted farm yard manure
- either in the autumn or 3 weeks before planting in the spring
Plant in the spring in a trench
Prepare the trench:
- only a day or two before planting
- dig out the trench with a spade, so it is 20cm deep, & about 30cm wide (wide enough for the roots to be spread out)
- then put a mound of soil all down the centre of the trench, about 10 cm high, for the crowns to sit on
- place some general fertiliser in the trench (it does not matter if the crowns come into contact with it)
Plant the crowns, 30 cm apart, in the trench, on top of the mound, and fan the roots out either side. The pointed part of the asparagus root should be facing upward.
80 – 90 cm between rows
- back fill the trench to the original soil level. Pat the soil down to get rid of the air pockets but do not compact the soil too much.
- Water the newly planted bed.
Do not harvest the asparagus spears in the first year after planting and allow asparagus fern to develop. Cut these to 5cm above the ground in autumn.
In the second year harvest the asparagus spears when they are 12cm long above ground. Use a sharp knife, and cut the stem 7cms beneath the soil.
Asparagus are easy to cook and have great nutritional value.
White asparagus are grown in a different way, so that the light is excluded.
How to cook asparagus:
- snap the asparagus at the bottom where it breaks naturally
- bring a large pan of salted water to the boil
- add the asparagus and return to the boil
- boil for two minutes
When cooked the asparagus should still have plenty of crunch.
- serve immediately, with melted butter, or
- if serving cold,
cool in iced water
place on a cloth and refrigerate
The cooked asparagus may be reheated, after refrigerating, in a touch of butter.
Asparagus is good for you, as the nutritional value, below, shows.
- low in calories
- free from fat or cholesterol
- very low in sodium (salt).
Asparagus is a good source of:
- folic acid – vitamin B9 – important in pregnancy
- dietary fibre
- rutin – a bioflavinoid with antioxidant properties
- asparagine – an amino acid which benefits the nervous system
Asparagus Calories and Nutrition per Serving (1 Serving=1oz/28g)
Click the link for more information on the nutritional value of asparagus.
Asparagus is best know in its green variety in the UK but can also be white, purple or multicoloured.
White asparagus is the norm in Switzerland.
White asparagus grows when it is deprived of light. Dirt is kept mounded around the emerging stalk, keeping it in the dark. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus there is no green colour to the stalks. The stalks grow very fat, and do not have a tough bit at the end.
Compared to green asparagus, white asparagus is considered to be:
- slightly milder in flavour
- a bit more tender
All varieties and colours of asparagus may be used interchangeably in recipes
Paul has sent in this idea for how to cook asparagus peas:
Hi, I’m a chef up on the Isle of Lewis and have just received my
first crop of locally grown asparagus peas. I use around 95% of
locally grown produce from the usual run of the mill stuff, up to
the weird and wonderful. With the asparagus peas I’m just going to
simply flash fry them in truffle butter and simply serve them with
Thanks Paul – sounds delicious!
The peas were sown on 10th April. TopVeg has not grown the asparagus pea before and is our entry for the Growing Challenge