Asparagus is one of those love it or hate it vegetables. I love it, as long as it is properly cooked. Overcook it and you get slime. But cooked until just tender, it’s sublime. And roasting it brings out its sweetness, like it does for other vegetables.
The exciting thing about asparagus in the garden is that it’s a perennial. That means that you only have to plant it once and it keeps reproducing for up to 20 years. Asparagus can be planted from seeds or from crowns (plants rather than seeds). With seeds, you should wait three years after planting before harvesting. With crowns, you may harvest the year after planting, but of course, crowns are much more expensive to purchase than seeds.
Asparagus is an easy vegetable to grow organically as it is not generally bothered by a lot of pests. The asparagus beetle can be hand picked from the plant if it shows up. Asparagus should be planted in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. It is important that you choose an area that has good drainage – waterlogged areas will cause root rot. Choose an area that will not shade other plants because asparagus grows from 5 – 9 feet tall.
To plant crowns, prepare a wide hole for each crown 5″ – 6″ deep, allowing the roots to spread out. I prefer planting in a lasagna garden. Asparagus can be planted from late April through May in northern climates. Space the crowns about 1 1/2 feet apart. Fill in the hole to its original soil level. Allow the ferns to grow and do not cut them in the fall if they are still green but rather, cut the old growth off at the ground the next spring. Keep the plants mulched to prevent weeds from growing.
A year after planting crowns, you may begin harvesting your asparagus. Snap them off when they are 7″ – 9″ tall and the tips are still tightly closed. Once the buds begin to open, the asparagus will become tough. Asparagus is best eaten soon after harvest.
My favorite way to eat asparagus is to roast it. Break off the base if it’s woody and wash the asparagus in cold water. Heat your oven to 400 degrees. I place a few tablespoons of coconut oil (find coconut oil here) into a baking pan and place the pan into the oven for a minute to melt the oil. Toss the asparagus, along with some green onions, in the melted oil, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, garlic powder and a tablespoon or two of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Roast the asparagus for approximately 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears, turning with tongs once or twice as they roast. Asparagus should be tender, but not mushy. Transfer to a serving platter, and enjoy!
Recommended Reading: Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza