Wednesday, 19 May 2010


There seems to be a million names for Asparagus: sperage, Sparrow-grass, Asper-grass... In Thailand it's called No mai farang (meaning 'Western Bamboo shoot'). In Hereford & Worcestershire where I did fruit & flower picking as a cub, it was just known as 'Grass'. The name Asparagus originates from the Persian Asparag, meaning 'sprout' or 'shoot'. Fancy that.
Whatever you call it, it's been around for a long time, and even featured in the Apicius de re coquinaria ("On the Subject of Cooking") a collection of recipes from the late 4th century. The recipe is pretty revolting, actually, poached warbler (a type of small tweety bird) & asparagus in a fish & egg sauce. Ick. Asparagus doesn't need much cooking, just lightly grilling, steaming or stir frying will do the job. It goes well with eggs and/or cheese too.
Growing asparagus is quite a commitment, too. Nothing says 'I'm sticking with you*, garden' quite like planting a crop that takes up a load of space for a small yield and takes 2 or 3 years to produce anything you can eat. So I have pledged my troth to my patch of Lincolnshire by making an asparagus bed.

You can get asparagus in a few different ways, either buying seed (the cheapest way, though you have to wait an extra year before you can start eating) or one year old 'crowns' (a Cthulhu-like mass of fleshy, brittle roots with a few teeny little spears poking out of the centre). Two year old crowns are available, but they are painfully expensive, and slower to establish in your patch. You can get asparagus crowns from garden centers, or buy them online. I bought half online & half from a few different garden centres, and I have to say, order online! The garden centre ones were sad, dried out little twigs that have shown no signs of life so far, whereas the online ordered ones are growing well. I'll keep an eye on them, and maybe think about replacing them with autumn-planted varieties if there's no growth by then.
They're all planted in a raised bed, in trenches 15cm (6") deep, spaced 30cm (12") apart each way, placing each little rooty cephalopod carefully on a mound of soil & spreading out it's roots. Then cover with 7cm (3") of soil & water well. In the autumn the trench can be topped up to the surrounding soil level. No matter how tempting they look, you can't have any of the emerging spears. Why? Because harvesting any in the first year will weaken the plant, and you won't get much from them in later years. When established, an asparagus will provide plentiful spears for up to 20 years, so patience now will mean rewards later. Delicious rewards. And probably beetles, knowing my luck.

*'Cos I'm made out of glue
Anything that you might do
I'm gonna do too

1 comment:

mangocheeks said...

Asparagus. Good luck and in time, I do hope that you are rewarded well.

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