So I had three asparagus spears peak through the surface of the soil yesterday and knew I would harvest them today. One of the spears' tips had already started to branch out...not big or anything, but like the tip opened up. Can I still cut and eat it...including the ferny pieces that have started? Thanks, I know it's a silly question...but this is my first experience with asparagus (just bought and moved into this house in January...discovered an already established asparagus bed and have been picking asparagus spears for a month) and I just don't know when the asparagus becomes inedible.
If it's just barely opened up, it can still be OK to eat depending on if you're OK with a little toughness. Leave it just a couple days after that and it's definitely too tough. And yes, as Diana says, it's important to know when to stop harvesting & just let the ferns grow (I believe it depends partly on the age of the plants--younger ones need to be harvested less.)
eat it before it goes to fern, until mid july, then let it all go to fern until fall. Don't cut it down until the frosts or until it starts to yellow. I mulch the bed with straw before really cold weather sets in.
I ate one, and it wasn't tough except down near the part where I cut it out of the ground. By the time I found the asparagus, there were some already ferned out (new home, so I have no idea how old this bed of asparagus is). Some of those ferns already have berries on them.
Instead of letting them fern, here in VA you can cut them to the ground and get a second crop in the late summer-early fall. Of my fall crop, I harvest only about 1/4, and let the others fern out to store energy. I don't do that every year, though. I want the crowns to last a long time!
thickness of shoot tells age on Mary/Martha Washingtons, Jersey spears are bigger around to start with, but tender is where snap starts, I don't cut em, I snap em and the tough stuff remains behind...mine usually don't make it to the house to cook, they get eaten first