Our little asparagus patch has finally produced enough spears for a family meal!
There's nothing like the first vegetable of the spring!
I put in more crowns (roots) last year, and
I am putting in more crowns this year in hopes
that over the next few years that we'll get enough for several meals.
Some places say to harvest after the second year, some after the third. The best rule I've heard is don't harvest anything smaller than your pinkie finger the first two years.
There are several varieties you can plant. Actually put in ones that my local grocery store had. Some are more resistant to damage and disease than others, so check in your area to see what is available.
For a decent patch I would estimate you would need about 12 -15 crowns. and then wait 3 years.
Anything smaller you have to leave to mature for the following year.
This is my fourth year for my first patch, so I should get almost 6 weeks of picking.
I don't have any pictures, but if you let a spear go, it becomes a large feathery plant as a male or berries as a female. After it feathers and berries, it becomes inedible, mildly toxic and can even be a skin irritant; but it protects the underlying shoots for the following year.
In the early, early spring, you cut back all of the dry foliage to the ground and get rid of it incase it has any beetle eggs.
As for the The beetles, I just hand-pick and put them into soapy water.
There are two kinds of Asparagus beetles you can get. Even though a lot of sites recommend spraying, I never spray. I just pick into soapy water and if I see the feathery branches with eggs, I strip them off them. I do ware gloves though because the larvae can be a bit squishy. It's gross.
One thing I didn't know is that even thought they are the first veggies up in the summer; they can still get ruined by the frost ( you can tell by their bendiness and translucency.). So after those first shoots come poking out of the ground, cover them with a towel every night until your frost date has passed.
To pick, I prefer to snap mine off at the ground, then you don't accidentally cut the other emerging spears.
When you find it starts coming in a spear here and there, but not enough for a meal; I pick the ones that are ready over 2 or 3 days and keep them in the fridge in a glass with a bit of water at their feet. This way they will stay fresh until you are ready to eat them.
If you have any patience, it's well worth it. Fresh asparagus from your yard is nothing like what comes from in the store.
*image from gardengate magazine