Asparagus officinalis is the plant from which the vegetable asparagus is obtained. Asparagus is a member of the lily family. There are about three hundred different types of asparagus however only approximately twenty of them are actually edible. Most people typically classify asparagus as one of three kinds: the most common green, purple, or white.
Photo from Wikipedia Asparagus is an extremely good vegetable both for its ease in growing and harvesting as well as for its nutritional value. It has a typical tender stem with a tight blossom type bulb on the tip. Asparagus has sixty percent of the necessary daily allowance of folic acid. Folic acid is believed to help in the prevention of a number of birth defects including but not limited to spinal bifida which paralyzes and or kills approximately 2,500 babies every year. A serving size of asparagus is only 5.3 ounces, it takes approximately one cup or 5 asparagus stems to make up a serving size. In one serving size there is a vast number of our daily nutrients.
Photo from Wikipedia Planting asparagus is not difficult; they need a well drained sandy soil in the full sun. It is preferable to plant the crowns instead of seeds or transplants due to the fact that there is a year of yield lost when direct sowing seeds. Rows should be between three and five feet apart to allow for proper drainage. Do not harvest any spears that grow the first season allow all of them to turn brown and trim them away with the weeds and browned brush at the end of the season. In the second year you will have a better harvest for allowing the crowns time to properly take hold. A perfect companion plant for asparagus and wonderful in its own right is tomatoes. The reason that tomatoes are such a great companion plant for asparagus is that they naturally deter the asparagus beetle while the asparagus plant may help to prevent harmful nematodes from getting to and damaging the tomato plant roots.
Each year one acre will produce approximately five hundred pounds of asparagus in ideal conditions. Some scientists even believe that with mass plantings of vegetable such as asparagus we could put a major dent in world hunger. Asparagus will grow quickly and need to be picked more often in the warmer months. In the early part of harvest when the weather is a bit cooler anywhere from three to six days may be needed between picking the spears however as the weather warms the time between harvesting will grow shorter sometimes as much as cutting everyday may be necessary. An asparagus plant that has been properly cared for can produce spears for between fifteen and twenty years. There has been much debate over whether to cut, pinch or break the spears above or below the ground. I have personally found that breaking works best for me; you also naturally break the plant at its most tender point and therefore do not have the rough or chewy part of the stock. My husband on the other hand prefers cutting them with a small pair of shears for a more measured even length so I believe in the end it comes down to preference. Photo from Wikipedia There are many ways to serve and use asparagus. It can be canned, frozen, served fresh, or pickled. We tend to freeze our asparagus due to the ease of doing so. Trim ends slightly and leave whole or cut into one inch pieces depending on the intended use once thawed, place into rapidly boiling water for approximately three minutes, remove and place into immediate ice bath, once cool drain and place into freezer bags. We vacuum seal ours instead of using the freezer bags and have kept them in the freezer for nine months while retaining its great flavor. Stock up on them for future stir fries or cheesy side dishes.
I would also like to thank DutchLady1 for sharing her notes with me; you saved me hours of work.
All photos are from Wikipedia.org