Asparagus season begins
Asparagus is finally springing up in the High Country, with the harvest expected to last up to eight weeks.
If you are an aspiring gardener who plans on residing in one place for a while, consider an asparagus investment. While it takes time to install in the garden, after it’s in, asparagus just keeps on giving.
I began growing asparagus six years ago. After ordering 50 “crowns” from a reputable nursery, my first task was to dig 100 feet of trenches, 12 inches wide and six inches deep. The recommendation is to place the crowns in the trenches one and a half to two feet apart and top them with two to three inches of soil mixed with compost.
Two weeks later, add another inch or two. Continue adding soil periodically until it is slightly mounded above surface level to allow for settling. Apply mulch to smother weeds, which compete with the young spears and reduce yields. Make sure they receive water at least twice a week the first two years.
As asparagus matures, it crowds out most weeds and sends long, fleshy roots deep into the earth, so watering is less critical. Fertilize in the spring and fall.
This project is for only those with patience, since you aren’t supposed to harvest any spears during the first two years. The plants need to put all their energy into establishing deep roots. During the third season, spears may be cut over a four week period, and by the fourth year, the harvest may be extended to eight weeks. In early spring, spears may be harvested every third day or so. I use a large, sharp pair of scissors for cutting.
Asparagus has long been thought of as a delicacy and is still quite expensive to purchase. Considered an ancient vegetable, it is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC. Romans would freeze it high in the Alps for the Feast of Epicurus.
While extremely nutritious, asparagus spears taste great steamed, grilled, roasted, in soups, salads, casseroles and even frozen for later in the year. This recipe is one of the simplest ways to prepare it.
1 bunch asparagus or equivalent, washed with woody ends cut off
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt, if desired
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Lightly coat a large baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Arrange spears in a single layer.
In a small dish, combine oil and garlic.
Drizzle over asparagus and sprinkle with salt.
Roast for 5 minutes and stir the spears to redistribute the oil.
Roast for 3 to 5 minutes longer, or until tender.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (828) 264-3061.