Crop of the month: Asparagus

The moon was full two weeks ago, so I’m late writing about harvest this month. You can see other posts in this series by following my ‘harvest’ tag. This month, let’s admire asparagus.

I’d like to tell you that the asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) bed on my allotment is in glut. But it isn’t. Yet. When I enjoy the first spears, I’ll know that spring has come to Northern England. Signs of spring have begun at last – hedges greening up, cherry trees in blossom – but there’s no sign of my asparagus spears yet.

The British Asparagus Growers Association (BAGA) sees the funny side. Celebrity bets were taken on when the 2013 asparagus season would begin.

When the spears do appear, the harvest will have been worth waiting for. Our British asparagus is known as the best in the world. Its appearance is timely for amateur gardeners because we might be a little bit weary of the winter vegetables by now, delicious as those are. Tom Norrington Davies at the Guardian tells us that asparagus is wonderful for closing the infamous Hungry Gap before the summer harvests begin.

In fact, Eat Seasonably names asparagus as one of May’s best choices, and it says that we can expect the season to last until June. I’ll cut spears from mine for eight weeks after they start to show.

Yes, in case you’re wondering, my asparagus bed is well established. For several years now I’ve enjoyed a good crop. Asparagus is a crop that rewards patience. Even if you start with year-old crowns, as I did, you harvest nothing in the first year and only a little in the second year. After that, oh my word! You eat it until it’s coming out of your ears and if you really can’t keep up, you freeze some to eat through the year.

Two of my childhood inspirations were my grandfathers, both keen gardeners. One of those gentlemen planted a new asparagus bed when he was 95 years old and lived to enjoy the crop. I never saw him read a gardening book and there was no internet, but he’ll have grown his asparagus like this.

Here in the 21st century, my fellow blogger LadyB at foodetcblog urged us to celebrate British asparagus. LadyB followed that with some delicious-looking asparagus recipes but I don’t think my allotment reads blogs. Perhaps that’s a good thing because the plants might read about chopping bits off them. Another blogger, Katharine Preston at The Botanist in the Kitchen, told us how to prepare asparagus. That’s mouth-watering unless you’re the asparagus plant.

Need an excuse to eat asparagus? I don’t, but if you’re hesitating, here’s what BAGA says about nutritious asparagus. Here’s what Joanna Blythman and Rosie Sykes at the Guardian say about why asparagus is good for you. You could even try the Asparagus Diet.

I won’t be on that diet but I’ll be tucking into fresh, home grown asparagus. If you come to my kitchen you’ll find asparagus simply, lightly boiled and dipped into English butter. If you prefer something fancier, here are some asparagus recipes. But really, why gild the lily? Just tuck in.

About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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2 Responses to Crop of the month: Asparagus

  1. Here in south east England, if it’s not running late it’s at a standstill. Even this green-fingered Witch is failing to get things to grow to schedule. My yummy Nasturtiums are STATIC SEEDLINGS right now, and barely doing anything! Four haven’t even come up, and usually they just go *phoom* once they’re in the soil! Not even one Marigold yet either…

    One thing about growing edibles I suppose… you never know with British weather, so plant more than you need and pray to The Mother that at least a QUARTER of what you planted comes up!

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