Friday, June 12, 2009

Detailed Asparagus Post

The second in a series of detailed posts about a single garden vegetable...

Our asparagus patch was planted in early spring 2008. It was started from 50 one year old roots ordered from RH Shumway. They were planted on 4/6/08. Read any book about the proper way to plant asparagus and they tell you to space the rows of roots 4 to 5 feet apart. Well you know I didn't do that. I can't afford that amount of valuable garden space. So I planted all 50 of my roots in a 5 x 7 foot (35 sq foot) raised garden bed in the "chimney garden". That is one serious snub of the garden literature (even for me). In the late fall I clipped the ferns and buried the asparagus bed in about 4 inches of mushroom manure.

So how is my little plot doing? I think is is doing fine. We broke another tried and true asparagus rule and did a small harvest in 2008 (year one). Maybe we harvested a total of 20 spears - just to get a flavor of the veggie. In 2009 (year 2), we harvested a bunch. Our first harvest was 4/1 and our last major harvest was 5/22, so almost two months of harvesting. We got a modest quantity of spears of varying thicknesses. Our typical harvest was once every two or three days garnering between 5 and 7 spears a harvest. Our typical use was to sprinkle some asparagus in our salads, soups or egg dishes. We only did a few "asparagus only" side dishes. In order to have enough asparagus for a side dish, we needed to save up a few days of harvests by putting the cut end in about an inch of water in a cup in the fridge. Once the spears started coming up pencil thin, we stopped harvesting and let them go to fern.

The taste of the asparagus was wonderful. Fresh and uncooked they almost taste like snap peas. It is a nice treat to just snap one off and nibble at it while gardening. They are great cooked also. I got into a habit of putting a little olive oil on them and a spice mixure called emerils essence and cooking them in the broiler for a couple of minutes. They make a nice spicy snack.

Lessons Learned/Planning ahead:
  • We want more asparagus - 7 spears every other day isn't enough for our family of 6. I think I'll buy some more roots next spring and take over the whole chimney garden.
  • The Chimney garden is the perfect asparagus spot because it gets good light in March and April before the leaves break out in the trees. But once the leaves are in this plot gets very little direct light.
  • Do I regret this intense planting? It's hard to say. I guess a little bit. My typical mindset when I do an intense planting like this is that no planting is permanent - I can always transplant for proper spacing at a later date, although this rarely happens.
  • I read once about a harvesting technique that gives you both a spring and a fall harvest. If I want to try this. The way it works is you plant a double plot of asparagus - harvest one half in the spring letting the other plot go directly to fern. Then, late in the summer you cut the ferns off in the unharvested plot. That plot is supposed to send up new spears in the fall, which are quite delicious because of the cooler temps. If I am able to increase my asparagus planting next year, I think I'll give this technique a try.

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