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By Jade Greene

This month, we wanted to learn more about the fleeting spring vegetable that takes the foodshed by storm every spring: asparagus. Almost like a spring ephemeral itself, this crop is here and then gone to seed… We plopped down in the asparagus patch to ask some questions while we can!

 

Q: Hi Asparagus! Thanks for chatting today! Let’s be quick since your season is so short.

Asparagus growth from toagriculture.com

A: Of course! Yes I will only be around to eat for about a month and half from late-April to June and then I will be busy making flowers, seeds, and growing roots, I am a perennial after all. You’ll be lucky to eat me, I am the ultimate locavore treat. Although my season is short, it takes me a long while to grow. Did you know after my root crowns are planted, I can not be harvested for THREE YEARS. Farmers and gardeners play the long game with me.

 

Q: What really? They must wait three years to get you for a few weeks?

A: It’s true! And farmers are willing to wait for me. After all, aren’t I just delicious and so delicate? Don’t you love my earthy taste and rich supply of nutrients? I am full of antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin B6 and C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Oh, how the best chefs around the world have loved me over the millennia.

 

Bust of Queen Nefertiti 

Q: Millenia?! How old are you? What’s your history?

A: Indeed. I never tell my age but I go back to ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. Roman emperor Augustus had an Asparagus Fleet to gather and transport the very best of my spears.  My girl Queen Nefertiti in Egypt loved me so much she named me the “food of the gods”’ and her fellow Egyptians depicted me in their tombs. European people and monarchs have revered me throughout their history, even King Louis XIV of France declared me “King of Vegetables.”

 

Q: I feel like I am in the presence of royalty, how do things stand now?

A: I suppose you are, darling. Well as we have stated, I am a local delicacy in your area. But of course, commercial farming has tamed my fickle nature. Clever farmers from China to Peru have figured out tricks to extend my season from growing me in heated tunnels to developing cold-resistant cultivars to employing alternative harvest techniques. Although I am available all year long now, you know I am best in spring from a local farm or your own garden, not shipped from far away.

 

Asparagus growing in a home garden

Q: How can I grow you in my garden?

A: I would love to join your garden! You can grow me from seed or root crown, even my roots are royal! Deer clearly do not have a good sense of taste, they leave me alone so that’s another benefit. Here are some gardening tips for growing me

 

You can locally purchase root crowns to start your garden at these local vendors:

  • Froehlich’s 
  • Burpee’s in Warminster
  • Tractor Supply

    Asparagus crowns from artofdoingstuff.com 

  • Dublin Agway

 

Invest in me now as you will need to wait 3 years before your first harvest!

 

Q: When did you arrive in North America?

A: I was brought over by Dutch settlers in the 1650s. I even escaped gardens and farms so now you can find me growing wild! I can be tricky to find but am safe to forage, and of course no one looks as unique as me so there are no lookalikes to confuse you.

 

Q: Sorry for the crude question but I have to ask: why do you make our pee smell?

A: Oh dear, you people never get sick of this question. It is all YOUR fault. You see, for at least 2,000 years until the 17th century, no one ever mentioned the malodorous odor and then YOU started using sulfur-rich fertilizers in agriculture and things changed. The smell is caused by YOUR digestion which creates a group of sulfur-containing compounds. Some humans can simply not detect the smell due to genetics. Quit blaming me for YOUR body! 

 

Storage asparagus in a jar with water and eat right away, photo from peasandhoppiness.com

Q: My apologies, I did not mean to offend. We still absolutely love you! Where can we get you?

A: Thank you, I understand the curiosity. The very best place to get me is your local farmer and farmers markets or your own garden! I do believe you have a number of vendors who sell me. It is important to eat me RIGHT AWAY! Do not store me. My flavor and nutrients quickly fade in a matter of hours after picking – so eat me right away! Best to put in me water like a bouquet of flowers if you need to wait and I will gorgeously decorate your counter.

 

As I mentioned, I grow well in the home garden, which is truly the best way to enjoy me. You can pick me exactly when I am perfectly ready and bring me straight inside to cook so no waiting around! 

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