Easy to grow, asparagus is one of those crops that is worth cultivating at home for the difference in taste alone.
This vegetable is a good source of energy-releasing B vitamins, including folate, which may lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Also containing magnesium and calcium, which helps maintain strong bones, it’s an all-round superfood.
Delicious in soups, eat the spears steamed, grilled or roasted, or serve raw while still young and tender.
Wash asparagus carefully and snap off the woody ends. The stems will break at their weakest point where they meet the tender spear.
TIP Don’t discard the woody ends,as you can use them to flavour stock.
The long crop
A perennial vegetable with succulent young shoots that grow from crowns, or roots, asparagus takes a few years to establish but is worth the wait.
While they’re expensive to buy, they are hardy plants that can crop for as long as 20 years once established, so choose the spot for them carefully.
You can grow it from seed or buy young pot plants for transplanting in spring, but the easiest method is to sow crowns that are one or two years old.
It takes three years to produce a crown that’s ready to harvest.
Choosing a colour
Green is considered the most common asparagus, and the most nutritious.
White asparagus is seen as a delicacy. Grown in the dark, the lack of sun is why the spears don’t turn green.
Purple is a different variety and richer in flavour. The colour comes from antioxidants in the spears.
Choose between purple, white and green asparagus
How to grow
Plant asparagus in winter while the crowns are still dormant.
They must be kept moist, so plant them as soon as possible.
SOW the crowns in sandy soil that is well drained in a sunny position with shelter from wind.
MULCH the bed with a layer of well-rotted compost or manure.
HARVEST in the third year for up to eight weeks, taking only one or two ripe spears from each plant when their tips are about 150mm above the soil.
Cut the base up to 100mm below soil level, using a sharp serrated knife. If not using immediately, stand the spears in iced water for a few hours, then wrap and store in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.
FEED the plants after cropping when the inedible ferny foliage is growing strongly, applying a liquid fertiliser to the base of the stems twice a fortnight.
In autumn, cut back the top growth and topdress with manure.
Click here to get the recipe for this delicious Asparagus and Ham Grill
How to plant the crowns
To plant asparagus crowns, dig trenches spaced 450mm apart. In heavy soils, plant them more shallowly but earth up the stems as they grow.
DIG A TRENCH to 450mm deep using a spade and incorporate plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Make a low ridge down the centre.
PLANT THE CROWNS about 100 to 150mm deep, spreading out the roots on either side of the ridge. Space them 300mm apart. Earth over the trench.