Photo: itsjustanalias (flickr)
As I was finishing up chores today, I spied the first asparagus tips emerging from the garden. As soon as I noticed the few small ones, before long I could see dozens that were ready to pick.
It is hard to believe that two short weeks ago we had snow and now I will be harvesting my first crop of delicate asparagus!
I am somewhat of an asparagus snob. My choice stems, or spears, have to be no bigger around than a pencil (If pressed, I will allow them to be as large as my little finger).
Anything larger and they seem to scream *tough and fibrous* to me. This is, of course, not the case.
Many people judge their harvest to be ready when the spears are as big around as their thumb. I think, secretly, they eat all the pencil thin ones themselves and don’t tell you they have any until those are long gone.
Planting and Growing Asparagus
The thing about asparagus, is that you have to be very patient if you want to grow it. The year before you plan on harvesting any, you will be preparing the bed and planting the thin root clusters.
Then, it is a long wait until the following spring, when a few, tiny spears appear. You must be judicious and only harvest a taste of these. You want the plants to become well established before really harvesting any quantity.
Finally, the second year AFTER you originally planted your asparagus roots, you will have a good crop.
Asparagus is also an unlikely, but highly prized, wild food. At any old homestead you might know about, there is usually an old asparagus patch that has long been neglected. The farm wife often tended to the beds, throwing salt on the area to kill weeds and help the asparagus grow.
I like to pickle my asparagus for the pantry. Asparagus may be one of the earliest things I put into my pantry each year. Plan on eating all that you can stand for a few days, then pickle them!
You can buy long, narrow jars that are made to display the spears, but this is for purely aesthetic reasons and is not really necessary.
Later this summer, why not harvest some fresh dill from the garden and throw it in the freezer so you have it on hand for the next asparagus season?
Recipe: Pickled Asparagus
Ingredients (makes 8 pints):
- 12 pounds of asparagus spears – washed and cut to fit your jars
- 8 smalled dried peppers
- 4 tablespoons dill seed
- 4 teaspoons whole mustard seed
- 8 cloves garlic
- 5 cups distilled vinegar
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 cup canning salt
- Place 1 hot pepper, 1/2 tsp dill, 1.2 tsp mustard seed and 1 clove garlic in each jar
- Firmly pack asparagus vertically into jars, don’t force them. Trim when necessary and leave 1/2 inch headspace
- Combine vinegar, water and salt. Heat to boiling.
- Pour boiling mixture over asparagus spears, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Release any air bubbles with a plastic or wooden utensil
- Seal and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes. Start timing when water starts to boil.
- Let sit for 2 weeks before sampling.