When I became a homeowner, I couldn’t wait to put down roots. Asparagus roots, that is! A perennial, asparagus is a little more demanding than your average homegrown vegetable, but it pays you back with interest for several years.
Plant healthy asparagus roots in eight-inch deep trenches in early spring. Water during dry spells that first year, but don’t overdo it. Asparagus doesn’t like to be water-logged. Your biggest challenge will be keeping weeds at bay. Try mulching to make this chore easier.
Watch for asparagus beetles to attack your asparagus tips. The bugs can be picked off by hand and disposed of in a jar of alcohol.
You won’t be picking asparagus during the first year of growth. The idea is to allow the plants to establish themselves first. Any spears that are thinner that a pencil should be left to develop into ferns, which will in turn feed the roots of the plant. In the fall, leave the ferns in place until they die naturally.
Often called the “Food of Kings,” asparagus has a long history dating back to the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. It is said that King Louis XIV of France ordered that special greenhouses be erected so he could enjoy asparagus year-round.
If time and space constraints keep you from growing asparagus at home (or you picked your crop and ate it on the way back to the house), look for these delicious spears at a nearby farmers’ market.
There’s just one more thing to recall about this royal vegetable: As it is loaded with amino acids and vitamins, it may impart a strong odor to your urine. Don’t panic! This common side effect shall pass, and until it does, endure it as a badge of honor for having treated yourself to a delicious, natural, nutrient-packed food.