Asparagus - Asparagus officinalis

Asparagus - Asparagus officinalis

The Asparagus

Belong to the large genus asparagus, common name for asparagus, many species with characteristic green fronds, often also used by florists to create suggestive floral compositions and that the enthusiast can cultivate in pots to embellish his apartment with pleasant ornamental motifs. It is a herbaceous or suffruticosa plant, with stems originating from branched rhizomes.

Asparagus has small scaly leaves and often a slightly thorny part at its apex. Its flowers are small in size and are often found united in racemes. While its fruits are berries inside which they are provided with a limited number of seeds. For cultivation in the vegetable garden, the most widespread species for food use is undoubtedly the asparagus officinalis: the common asparagus.

Asparagus officinalis

Asparagus officinalis, belonging to the Liliacee family, is a decidedly rustic plant, able to withstand high temperatures as well as cold climates. However, their growth is favored by temperate climates, characterized by mild temperatures in spring with a hot sun at noon. Asparagus officinalis also grows spontaneously along the banks of rivers or seas.


Cultivation starts with the use of asparagus suckers, called shoots. These must be collected in the month of May or June. The seeds used for the new cultivation will be collected on the branches that have developed from the shoots of an asparagus, making use only of those found inside the larger berries. For the creation of a new asparagus, you can also buy the legs of at least one year of age in nurseries. The operations are to be carried out at the end of the summer: the organic fertilizer or, alternatively, the manure or compost is buried in depth. In the autumn season, the preparation operations of the planting pits are carried out, at a depth of 30 cm maximum and a width of maximum 80 cm. The legs must be placed at a distance between 35 and 50 centimeters, placing the roots in the direction of the row. Their final planting must be carried out between March and April.

In the spring season, before the shoots appear, it will be advisable to carry out a weeding in order to drastically reduce the development of weeds and to limit the evaporation to which the water of the soil is subject. In autumn it is time to remove the most yellowed shoots, which can then be chopped up and combined with the organic fertilizer destined for the soil, to be distributed on the rows in winter.


The preferred soil for asparagus is sandy, fresh, not too calcareous, well equipped with calcium and sufficiently drained. The plant does not like a widespread presence of stones and gravel that can prevent a correct development of the shoots. It has no particular problems even in the face of severe cold. However, it takes damage from late frosts if the shoots are already out of the ground.


Its rusticity allows the asparagus to grow well even in the presence of not too fertile soils. The advice is to enrich the soil with 3 good quintals of mature or compound manure every 100 square meters of cultivation, an operation to be carried out at the end of winter when working for the creation of the new asparagus. For soils that are particularly poor in calcium, we recommend the use of wood ash, which must be buried.

Good associations for the cultivation of asparagus are, especially in the first two years of the plant's life, with cucumbers, lettuces and tomatoes.


The asparagus has a decidedly strong and robust root system, therefore its resistance is remarkable even to periods of drought, although, obviously, a prolonged lack of water causes damage to the developing shoots. Following the planting of shoots it is advisable to carry out an irrigation and, subsequently, three more waterings during the summer, in particular in June, the period of the end of the harvest, since the lack of water at this time could cause vegetative rest.


The greatest danger for the asparagus comes from the "larvae of the asparagus fly", also called platyparea poecyloptera, which producing in the excavation of tunnels inside the shoots, cause serious damage to the shoots, up to the death of the plant due to drying . To fight these flies that lay their eggs in the shoots, we intervene by opposing them the predatory hymenoptera called dacnusa rodanii.

Collection of shoots

The collection of the shoots must not be carried out in the first two years of life in order not to significantly weaken the new asparagus. Thus the first harvesting operation can take place after three years of life, between the month of May and that of June. Subsequently the shoots will increase and then stabilize until the twelfth year of life, following which the plant will show a perceptible decrease in its production. Approximately after fifteen years the asparagus ends its cycle by no longer presenting sufficient productions.

Asparagus 'Martha Washington' (Asparagus officinalis)


A tried and true variety loved by generations of asparagus gardeners for its tender, delicious spears and good disease resistance. 'Martha Washington' is especially good for pickling and freezing. Asparagus plants are perennial. Their ferny texture adds a soft, airy feel to the garden and the plants provide a reliable spring harvest for years to come.

Delicious when lightly steamed and covered with cheese sauce or melted butter. An excellent source of vitamins and minerals. May be canned or frozen for later use. Wash fruits, vegetables and herbs thoroughly before eating.

Plant Feed

Use a fertilizer formulated for vegetables.


Basic Care Summary

Very easy to grow in virtually any location. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. Keep soil moist, watering freely in dry weather. Pick when tips are tight. No need to cut stalks, just snap off close to the ground. Harvest period is 4-6 weeks.

Planting Instructions

Select a sunny site, away from trees and close to a water source if possible.

Prepare the garden by breaking up the existing soil (use a hoe, spade, or power tiller) to a depth of 12-16 ”(30-40cm). Add organic matter such as manure, peat moss or garden compost until the soil is loose and easy to work. Organic ingredients improve drainage, add nutrients, and encourage earthworms and other organisms that help keep soil healthy. Give plants an extra boost by adding a granulated fertilizer formulated for vegetables or and all-purpose feed (such as a fertilizer labeled 5-10-5).

Remove the plant from the container. If plants are in a pack, gently squeeze the outside of the individual plant cell while tipping container to the side. If plant doesn't loosen, continue pressing on the outside of the container while gently grasping the base of the plant and tugging carefully so as not to crush or break the stem until the plant is released. If the plant is in a pot, brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot.

Dig the hole up to two times larger than the root ball and deep enough that the plant will be at the same level in the ground as the soil level in the container. Grasping the plant at the top of the root ball, use your finger to lightly rake apart the lower roots apart. This is especially important if the roots are dense and have filled up the container. Set the plant in the hole.

Check the plant label for suggested spacing and the mature height of the plant. Position plants so that taller plants are in the center or background of the garden and shorter plants in the foreground.

Plan ahead for plants that get tall and require staking or support cages. It's best to install cages early in the spring, at planting time, before the foliage gets bushy. Vining vegetables can occupy a lot of space, so provide a trellis, fence, or other structure that allows the plant to grow vertically to maximize garden space.

Watering Instructions

Ideally water should only be applied to the root zone - an area roughly 6-12 "(15-30cm) from the base of the plant, not the entire plant. A soaker hose is a great investment for keeping plants healthy and reducing water lost through evaporation. Hand watering using a watering wand with a sprinkler head attached is also a good way to control watering. If the garden area is large, and a sprinkler is necessary, try to water in the morning so that plant foliage has time to dry through the day. Moist foliage encourages disease and mold that can weaken or damage plants.

Thoroughly soaking the ground every 2-3 days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance. How often to water will depend on rainfall, temperature and how quickly the soil drains.

To check for soil moisture use your finger or a small trowel to dig in and examine the soil. If the first 2-4 "(5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.

Fertilizing Instructions

A well prepared planting bed enriched with organic matter such as compost or manure and a mild general-purpose, granulated fertilizer gets plants off to a good start. Give plants a boost later in the season with a fertilizer formulated for vegetables.

Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Follow the package directions to determine how much, and how often, to feed.

Be sure to keep the garden well-weeded. Weeds take vital moisture and nutrients away from the vegetable plants.

Pruning Instructions

There are several reasons to prune vegetable plants: to help contain a plant's size, to promote bushy compact growth, to remove dead or diseased stems, and to promote larger, healthier fruit yields.

Flower buds can be pinched off to force the plant energy into fewer fruits that develop faster.

Vining plants can become invasive in a confined garden space. If necessary, entire vines can be removed down to the main stem to keep plants under control.

Never prune away more than 1/3 of the plant or it may become weak and unproductive.

Remove vegetables as soon as they mature. Leaving them on the plant any longer than necessary can affect flavor and texture, and mature fruit steals energy from younger developing fruits.


  • 1 Biology
  • 2 History
  • 3 Uses
    • 3.1 White asparagus
  • 4 Cultivation
    • 4.1 Companion planting
  • 5 Commercial production
    • 5.1 Celebrations
  • 6 Vernacular names and etymology
  • 7 Effects on urine
    • 7.1 Chemistry
  • 8 Gallery
  • 9 Notes
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links

Asparagus is a herbaceous, perennial plant [7] growing to 100–150 cm (40–60 in) tall, with stout stems with much-branched, feathery foliage. The "leaves" are in fact needle-like cladodes (modified stems) in the axils of scale leaves they are 6–32 mm (1 ⁄4 – 1 1 ⁄4 in) long and 1 mm (1 ⁄32 in) broad, and clustered four to 15 together, in a rose-like shape. [8] The root system, often referred to as a "crown," is adventitious and the root type is fasciculated. The flowers are bell-shaped, greenish-white to yellowish, 4.5–6.5 mm (3 ⁄16 – 1 ⁄4 in) long, with six tepals partially fused together at the base they are produced singly or in clusters of two or three in the junctions of the branchlets. It is usually dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants, but sometimes hermaphrodite flowers are found. The fruit is a small red berry 6-10 mm (1 ⁄4 – 13 ⁄32 in) in diameter, which is toxic to humans. [9]

Plants native to the western coasts of Europe (from northern Spain to northwest Germany, north Ireland, and Great Britain) are treated as Asparagus officinalis subsp. prostratus (Dumort.) Corb. , distinguished by its low-growing, often prostrate stems growing to only 30–70 cm (12–28 in) high, and shorter cladodes 2–18 mm (3 ⁄32 – 23 ⁄32 in) long. [4] [10] It is treated as a distinct species, Asparagus prostratus Dumort, by some authors. [11] [12]

Asparagus has been used as a vegetable owing to its distinct flavor, and in medicine due to its diuretic properties and its purported function as an aphrodisiac. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC. In ancient times, it was also known in Syria and in Spain. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season, and dried the vegetable for use in winter. Roman Epicureans froze its sprouts high in the Alps for the Feast of Epicurus. Emperor Augustus created the "Asparagus Fleet" for hauling the vegetable, and coined the expression "faster than cooking asparagus" for quick action. [Note 1] [13] [14]

A recipe for cooking asparagus is given in one of the oldest surviving collections of recipes (Apicius's third-century BC De re coquinaria, Book III). In the second century AD, the Greek physician Galen, highly respected within Roman society, mentioned asparagus as a beneficial herb, but as dominance of the Roman empire waned, asparagus' medicinal value drew little attention [15] [Note 2] until al- Nafzawi's The Perfumed Garden. That piece of writing celebrates its purported aphrodisiacal power that the Indian Ananga Ranga attributes to "special phosphorus elements" that also counteract fatigue. [ dubious - discuss ]

By 1469, asparagus was cultivated in French monasteries. Asparagus appears to have been little noticed in England until 1538, [Note 2] and in Germany until 1542. [14]

Asparagus was brought to North America by European settlers at least as early as 1655. Adriaen van der Donck, a Dutch immigrant to New Netherland, mentions asparagus in his description of Dutch farming practices in the New World. [16] Asparagus was grown by British immigrants as well in 1685, one of William Penn's advertisements for Pennsylvania included asparagus in a long list of crops that grew well in the American climate. [17]

The points d'amour ("love tips") were served as a delicacy to Madame de Pompadour (1721–1764). [18]

Only young asparagus shoots are commonly eaten: once the buds start to open ("ferning out"), the shoots quickly turn woody. [19]

Water makes up 93% of asparagus's composition. [20] Asparagus is low in food energy and very low in sodium. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper , manganese, and selenium, [21] [22] as well as chromium, a trace mineral that regulates the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. [23] The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, as the asparagus plant is relatively rich in this compound.

The shoots are prepared and served in a number of ways around the world, typically as an appetizer [24] or vegetable side dish. In Asian-style cooking, asparagus is often stir-fried. Cantonese restaurants in the United States often serve asparagus stir-fried with chicken, shrimp, or beef. It may also be quickly grilled over charcoal or hardwood embers, and is also used as an ingredient in some stews and soups. In recent years, [ when? ] asparagus eaten raw, as a component of a salad, has regained popularity. [25]

Asparagus can also be pickled and stored for several years. Some brands label shoots prepared in this way as "marinated".

Stem thickness indicates the age of the plant (and not the age of the stalk), with the thicker stems coming from older plants. Older, thicker stalks can be woody, although peeling the skin at the base removes the tough layer. Peeled asparagus will poach much faster. [26] The bottom portion of asparagus often contains sand and soil, so thorough cleaning is generally advised before cooking. Plants bearing seeds produce spears that are smaller and thinner, and plants without seeds produce larger and thicker spears. [27] Thickness and thinness are not an indication of tenderness or toughness. The stalks are thick or thin from the moment they sprout from the ground. [27]

Green asparagus is eaten worldwide, though the availability of imports throughout the year has made it less of a delicacy than it once was. [10] In Europe, however, the "asparagus season is a highlight of the foodie calendar" in the UK this traditionally begins on 23 April and ends on Midsummer Day. [28] [29] As in continental Europe, due to the short growing season and demand for local produce, asparagus commands a premium price.

White asparagus Edit

White asparagus is very popular in Europe and western Asia. [ citation needed ] White asparagus is the result of applying a blanching technique while the asparagus shoots are growing. To cultivate white asparagus, the shoots are covered with soil as they grow, i.e. earthed up without exposure to sunlight, no photosynthesis starts, and the shoots remain white. Compared to green asparagus, the locally cultivated so-called "white gold" or "edible ivory" asparagus, also referred to as "the royal vegetable", [30] is believed to be less bitter and much more tender. Freshness is very important, and the lower ends of white asparagus must be peeled before cooking or raw consumption.

Only seasonally on the menu, asparagus dishes are advertised outside many restaurants, usually from late April to June. For the French style, asparagus is often boiled or steamed and served with Hollandaise sauce, White sauce, melted butter or most recently with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. [31] Tall, narrow asparagus cooking pots allow the shoots to be steamed gently, their tips staying out of the water.

During the German Spargelsaison or Spargelzeit ("asparagus season" or "asparagus time"), the asparagus season that traditionally finishes on 24 June, roadside stands and open-air markets sell about half of the country's white asparagus consumption. [32]

In India, especially in Maharashtra state, it is not usually cultivated, but grows naturally in the farms during monsoon. Farmers from rural areas and some tribal people use the young asparagus plants as a vegetable in their meals. [ citation needed ]

Since asparagus often originates in maritime habitats, it thrives in soils that are too saline for normal weeds to grow. Thus, a little salt was traditionally used to suppress weeds in beds intended for asparagus this has the disadvantage that the soil cannot be used for anything else. Some places are better for growing asparagus than others. The fertility of the soil is a large factor. "Crowns" are planted in winter, and the first shoots appear in spring the first pickings or "thinnings" are known as sprue asparagus. Sprue has thin stems. [33]

A breed of "early-season asparagus" that can be harvested two months earlier than usual was announced by a UK grower in early 2011. [34] This variety does not need to lie dormant and blooms at 7 ° C (45 ° F) , rather than the usual 9 ° C (48 ° F).

Purple asparagus differs from its green and white counterparts in having high sugar and low fiber levels. Purple asparagus was originally developed in Italy, near the city of Albenga and commercialized under the variety name 'Violetto d' Albenga '. [35]

German botanical illustration of asparagus

Green asparagus for sale in New York City

Harvest of white asparagus in Hockenheim, Germany

Companion planting Edit

Asparagus is said to be a useful companion plant for tomatoes, as the tomato plant repels the asparagus beetle. Asparagus may repel some harmful root nematodes that affect tomato plants. [36]

The top asparagus importers (2016) were the United States (214,735 tonnes), followed by Germany (24,484 tonnes), and Canada (19,224 tonnes). [37]

China is by far the world's largest producer: in 2017 it produced 7,845,162 tonnes, followed by Peru with 383,098 tonnes and Mexico with 245,681 tonnes. [37] U.S. production was concentrated in California, Michigan, and Washington. [38] [39] The annual production for white asparagus in Germany is 57,000 tonnes (61% of consumer demand). [40]

When grown under tunnels, growers can extend the harvest season. In the UK, it is estimated that the asparagus harvest season can begin as early as mid-February and continue into late autumn by growing cold-resistant cultivars under heated polytunnels. Furthermore, late season harvests can be achieved using 'reverse season growth' where spears are left to fern between March – August and harvested in September – October. [41] [42]

In Asia, an alternative approach to cultivating asparagus has been employed and is referred to as 'Mother Stalk Method' where three to five stalks per plant are allowed to develop into fern, while harvesting adjacent spears. [43]

Celebrations Edit

The green crop is significant enough in California's Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta region that the city of Stockton holds a festival every year to celebrate it. Oceana County, Michigan, the self-proclaimed "asparagus capital of the world" hosts an annual festival complete with a parade and asparagus queen [44] The Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire is the largest producer within Northern Europe, [ citation needed ] celebrating with the annual British Asparagus Festival involving auctions of the best crop, an "Asparagus Run" modeled on the Beaujolais Run and a weekend "Asparafest" music festival. [45]

Many German cities hold an annual Spargelfest (asparagus festival) celebrating the harvest of white asparagus. Schwetzingen claims to be the "Asparagus Capital of the World", [46] and during its festival, an Asparagus Queen is crowned. The Bavarian city of Nuremberg feasts a week long in April, with a competition to find the fastest asparagus peeler in the region this usually involves generous amounts of the local wines and beers being consumed to aid the spectators' appreciative support.

Helmut Zipner, who peeled a ton of asparagus in 16 hours, holds the world record in asparagus peeling. [46]

A. officinalis is widely known simply as "asparagus", and may be confused with unrelated plant species also known as "asparagus", such as Ornithogalum pyrenaicum known as "Prussian asparagus" for its edible shoots.

Look up ἀσφάραγος or I scatter in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

The English word "asparagus" derives from classical Latin but the plant was once known in English as sperage, from the Medieval Latin sparagus. [Note 2] This term itself derives from the Greek aspharagos or asparagus, but the Greek terms are of uncertain provenance: the latter form admits the possibility of a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to jerk, scatter," directly or via a Persian descendant meaning "twig, branch" but the Ancient Greek word itself, meaning "gully, chasm," seems to be of Pre-Greek origin instead.

Asparagus was corrupted in some places to "sparrow grass" indeed, John Walker wrote in 1791 that "Sparrowgrass is so general that asparagus has an air of stiffness and pedantry ". [47] The name 'sparrow grass' was still in common use in rural East Anglia, England well into the twentieth century. [48]

In Turkish, asparagus is known as kuşkonmaz, [49] literally "[a] bird won't land [on it]", in reference to the shape of the plant.

In India, especially in the state of Maharashtra, it is not cultivated but it grows naturally in the farms during monsoon season. Farmers from rural areas and some tribal people use asparagus as a vegetable in local cuisine.

It is called as 'Sasur / Susar Muli' (ससूर / सुसर मुळी) in Marathi, a local language of the state of Maharashtra, India.

Mature native asparagus with seed pods in Saskatchewan, Canada

The effect of eating asparagus on urine excreted afterwards has long been observed:

[Asparagus] cause a powerful and disagreeable smell in the urine, as everybody knows.

Treatise of All Sorts of Foods, Louis Lemery, 1702 [50]

asparagus. affects the urine with a foetid smell (especially if cut when they are white) and therefore have been suspected by some physicians as not friendly to the kidneys when they are older, and begin to ramify, they lose this quality but then they are not so agreeable.

- "An Essay Concerning the Nature of Aliments", John Arbuthnot, 1735 [51]

A few Stems of Asparagus eaten, shall give our Urine a disagreeable Odor.

- "Letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels", Benjamin Franklin, c. 1781 [52]

Asparagus ". Transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume."

- Marcel Proust (1871–1922) [53]

Asparagus contains asparagusic acid. When the vegetable is digested, a group of volatile sulfur-containing compounds is produced. [54]

Asparagus has been eaten and cultivated for at least two millennia but the association between odorous urine and asparagus consumption was not observed until the late 17th century when sulfur-rich fertilisers became common in agriculture. [55] Small-scale studies noted that the "asparagus urine" odor was not produced by all individuals and estimates as to the proportion of the population who are excretors (reporting a noticeable asparagus urine odor after eating asparagus) has ranged from about 40% [56] to as high as 79%. [57] [58] When excretors are exposed to non-excretor urine after asparagus consumption, however, the characteristic asparagus urine odor is usually reported. [55] More recent work has confirmed that a small proportion of individuals do not produce asparagus urine, and amongst those that do, some cannot detect the odor due to a single-nucleotide polymorphism within a cluster of olfactory receptors. [59]

Debate exists about the universality of producing the sulfurous smell, as well as the ability to detect it. Originally, this was thought to be because some people digested asparagus differently from others, so some excreted odorous urine after eating asparagus, and others did not. In the 1980s, three studies from France, [60] China, and Israel published results showing that producing odorous urine from asparagus was a common human characteristic. The Israeli study found that from their 307 subjects, all of those who could smell "asparagus urine" could detect it in the urine of anyone who had eaten asparagus, even if the person who produced it could not detect it. [61] A 2010 study [62] found variations in both production of odorous urine and the ability to detect the odor, but that these were not tightly related. Most people are thought to produce the odorous compounds after eating asparagus, but the differing abilities of various individuals to detect the odor at increasing dilutions suggests a genetically determined specific sensitivity. [63] [64] [65]

In 2010, the company 23andMe published a genome-wide association study on whether participants have "ever noticed a peculiar odor when you pee after eating asparagus?" [66] This study pinpointed a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in a cluster of olfactory genes associated with the ability to detect the odor. While this SNP did not explain all of the difference in detection between people, it provides support for the theory that genetic differences occur in olfactory receptors that lead people to be unable to smell these odorous compounds.

Chemistry Edit

Certain compounds in asparagus are metabolized to yield ammonia and various sulfur-containing degradation products, including various thiols and thioesters, [67] which give urine a characteristic smell.

Some [68] of the volatile organic compounds responsible for the smell are: [69] [70]

Subjectively, the first two are the most pungent, while the last two (sulfur-oxidized) give a sweet aroma. A mixture of these compounds form a "reconstituted asparagus urine" odor. This was first investigated in 1891 by Marceli Nencki, who attributed the smell to methanethiol. [71] These compounds originate in the asparagus as asparagusic acid and its derivatives, as these are the only sulfur-containing compounds unique to asparagus. As these are more present in young asparagus, this accords with the observation that the smell is more pronounced after eating young asparagus. The biological mechanism for the production of these compounds is less clear. [ citation needed ]

The onset of the asparagus urine smell is remarkably rapid while the decline is slower. The smell has been reported to be detectable 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion [72] [ dead link ] [73] and subsides with a half-life of approximately four hours. [58]

Asparagus - Asparagus officinalis - garden

Asparagus officinalis
Asparagus is a cool-climate perennial plant that is fairly well adapted to all but the hottest areas of the South. Its tender spears, which arise from the crowns in the spring, make it an appetizing product of the home garden.

• More detailed information can be found in The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Book by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing

Asparagus is native to Europe and Asia where it has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. The earliest settlers brought it to America, and abandoned plantings can still be found around old farmsteads and in volunteer patches along roadsides where is has “escaped” from cultivation by seed.

Planning is essential for these plants because a well-prepared asparagus bed can last many years before needing reworking. The asparagus planting will take a few years to get into full production, so you will not want to move the bed around. Plant asparagus as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. Asparagus plants consist of a crown with many dormant buds and several fleshy roots. One-year-old crowns are preferred, but 2- and 3-year-old crowns are available. They are more expensive, but produce earlier.

Position the bed in a full-sun (8 to 10 hours will suffice) location away from trees or shrubs that may send roots into the bed. A poorly drained bed will deteriorate, and the plants will rot and eventually die out. Asparagus prefers sandy soil, which is generally better drained, warms up earlier in spring, and makes harvesting easier. Any well-prepared and well-drained soil will suffice, however.

Prepare the soil by spading it over and incorporating organic matter. Open a trench 6 inches deep and 15 inches wide, the length of the bed. Set the plants in the trench about 1 foot apart with the buds pointing up, then spread the roots in a uniform pattern around each crown. Replace 2 inches of the soil from the trench over the crowns, and water the plants thoroughly to settle the soil. Reserve the remaining soil to gradually cover the crowns as the plants grow during their first year all of the soil is to be used in the first year.

In the first year, the plants will produce weak, spindly growth. As the root system develops, the spears will become larger each year, but the spears are not ready for harvesting until the third season. As soon as you complete the harvest, apply a complete garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, at the rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet of bed. The nitrogen stimulates the growth of the ferns that replenish the roots for the next year. Water the plants to provide about 1 inch per week during the season. Weed control is the most challenging part of growing any perennial plant, and asparagus is no different. Weeds compete with the asparagus for water and nutrients and make harvesting difficult. Because the bed is always occupied, there is no good time to get rid of the weeds without the chance of damaging the plants. Hoe or pull weeds as they appear, and use lots of mulch to keep more from coming up. No serious diseases affect asparagus.

Harvest asparagus spears beginning in the third season, and limit harvesting to 3 weeks after the start of harvest. The following year and thereafter, harvest spears from the time they appear in spring until late may or June. Cut the spears when they are 6 to 8 inches long discontinue harvesting when spears become noticeably smaller. Europeans and recent immigrants to the U.S. prefer blanched asparagus. They hill the plants with sand carefully packed over the developing spears. When spears begin to emerge, cracks appear in the sand, and they pull back the sand to reveal the white spears. After they cut the spears, they replace the sand and pack it down again. they often peel the spears to remove any fiber and make them very tender additions to a meal. Blanching is not commonly done in the South.

Asparagus plants are either male or female. The female plants produce more but smaller spears than the male plants. The female plants produce seeds, an activity that takes energy that could be stored up in the plants for better production the next year. Male plants direct the energy into making spears. The old-line varieties such as ‘Waltham’ or the ‘Mary Washington’ or ‘Martha Washington’ are still available but are mixed male and female plants. They are not nearly as productive as the newer kinds. Recent introductions are either mostly male or all male. Syn 53, Syn 4-362, UC-157, Viking KBC, Jersey Knight, Jersey Prince, and Jersey Giant are vastly improved varieties derived from a selection that produces only male plants. Try to plant the latest introductions the bed will last a long time, so it pays to plant the very best.

Jersey Giant
Hybrid, good yield, mostly male.

Jersey Knight
Good producer, disease resistant, mostly male.

Jersey Prince
Mostly male, cold tolerant, hybrid.

Syn 4-362
Mostly male, hybrid, large spears.

Syn 53
Newer, mostly male, hybrid.

Large yield, male, hybrid.

Viking KBC
Hybrid, mostly male, good producer.

Biointensive Beds for Asparagus

The biointensive method is aimed primarily at maximizing the growth of annual crops during the growing season. Happily, its approach to bed creation neatly meets the needs of asparagus as well, even though asparagus – as a long-lived perennial – is the opposite of most of these crops. Because asparagus will live in its bed for well over a decade, preparing the bed well is even more crucial than it would be for annual vegetables.

The University of New Hampshire recommends soil that is loose, deep, well-drained and fertile, and suggests incorporating manure, compost or other organic material while you're digging the bed. Biointensive gardening – sometimes called "French intensive gardening," because Ecology Action drew on older European techniques in developing its method – does all of these things, but takes them to another level by "double-digging" the beds.

Video: #Health Benefits of Asparagus by #Shikha Sharma