Asparagus grows most vigorously where it receives full sun all day and it requires protection from wind and a location where they won’t shade other parts of the garden with their tall foliage. They thrive in light, sandy, compost-enriched and weed-free soil.
When planting Asparagus, cover the crowns with 2 inches of soil and water them thoroughly. Asparagus plants require a lot of water and protection. Once the Asparagus spears appear, snap them off at soil level when they are 5 to 8 inches tall. After that time, leave any additional spears in place to provide energy to the roots. You can harvest young Asparagus for 2-4 weeks, but once established, this can stretch to 6-8 weeks. Leave a few of the late spears on the crowns and continue to water to encourage more growth the following year.
The fleshy green spears of Asparagus are both succulent and tender and have been considered a delicacy since ancient times. Like all vegetables, asparagus doesn’t instantly ‘die’ when it is picked, but instead, continues to engage in metabolic activity. Asparagus has a very high respiration rate, which makes it more perishable than many vegetables. By wrapping the ends of the Asparagus in a damp paper or cloth towel, you can help prolong it shelf life, but it is better to consume Asparagus within about 48 hours of purchase.
Asparagus season is considered to be spring, but you can normally find this popular vegetable year-round. Of course you can buy the white Asparagus in jars or tins here in Spain, but it is nothing like the wonderful fresh Asparagus. Look for firm, bright green spears with healthy tips that are tight and not mushy. Spear size ranges from fat – these come from older plants – to pencil thin. Whether you like skinny or fat spears is personal preference, but for even cooking, choose spears that are uniform in size. You can steam, roast, simmer, grill, microwave or cut into small pieces, stir-fry Asparagus. If you want it cold on salads, simply bring it to the boil and then plunge it into very cold water. This will keep the Asparagus crisp and tender.
Now is the time of year when the wonderful wild Asparagus starts to show its new shoots through the ground. If you have never found any of this tasty vegetable, look for evidence of last year’s growth – the spiky green ferny foilage – whilst you are out walking. This is where the new Asparagus will appear.
Wild Asparagus (Asparagus racemosus) is a species of Asparagus with a long history of use in India and other parts of Asia as a botanical medicine. Many medicinal qualities of wild Asparagus have been associated with phyto-nutrients present in its roots. It also contains saponins, not only in its roots, but also in its shoots. Saponins in food have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and their intake has also been associated with improved blood pressure, improved blood sugar regulation, and better control of blood fat levels.