My friends at Common Ground Garden Supply may have shaken their heads at me a bit when I told them we were starting asparagus from seed. Apparently most people get dried-out, nasty looking year-old roots, soak them in warm water for several hours to rehydrate them and somehow configure the poor, spidery things over a cone of soil, bury them over the winter and hope for the best come spring. I actually tried this! But, no luck. The year-old ‘Mary Washington‘ roots from Yamagami’s didn’t take. I lost the year I would have gained by starting with year-old roots waiting for dead roots who had no intention of sprouting into asparagus ferns. So, when I saw the heirloom ‘Precoce d’Argentuil‘ asparagus seed, I figured it couldn’t go any worse than the roots had.
In fact, it went well, I guess. The seeds sprouted. The seedlings grew slowly but by fall they were big enough to set into their composted horse manure amended permanent bed. The stems are fairly spindly, but all asparagus ferns are like that, aren’t they? This picture was taken around Thanksgiving, just before our first frost, so I think it’s normal that the ferns were starting to yellow. I had expected them to start dying down before then. The books say to clip the dried ferns in the fall but these young’uns were still pretty green at Thanksgiving, so I left them standing where they were.
I checked in on them on New Year’s Day, thinking it would finally be time to clip off the old ferns and clean the bed up a bit, and here’s what I found.
The first year after the roots are in their permanent bed, you are supposed to take nothing. Let the spears that form grow into ferns to feed the roots. The second year after they’ve been in the ground, you can take any spears that form thicker than a pencil for something like a few weeks. This monster is as thick as a Sharpie, and year-one in the ground or not, I’m thinking about eatin’ him.
Got any recipes that call for a single asparagus spear?