Grow Your Own Asparagus

It's not as tricky as you think...and its fresh taste is fantastic!

By Denise Foley | March/April 2006

How to Harvest
Though they look luscious, don’t harvest any asparagus spears the first year you plant, or you’ll exhaust the food supply in the crowns. Be patient and wait till year two, then harvest judiciously. Carl recommends picking spears for only 2 weeks that first spring after the planting year. Your patience and willpower will help your crowns produce even more spears in subsequent years. As the weather warms up, you may be picking twice a day.

Gardeners are commonly advised to cut back asparagus in fall to reduce fungal risk, but according to Carl’s research, that doesn’t work. In fact, allowing the ferns to remain in the beds lowers the soil temperature, reducing the risk of frost damage in spring, and helps catch snow for additional moisture.

Cooking Asparagus
Once you pick it, it’s quite easy to put asparagus to use in the kitchen (see recipes for Asparagus Vinaigrette and Sunny Asparagus Tart). Store spears upright in a jar with about an inch of water in the bottom. Before cooking, break off the woody ends by hand or cut them with a knife. Asparagus can be steamed, boiled, sauteed, blanched, even roasted (with some olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette) — just don’t cook it down to mush. You’ll lose the bright green color, most of the nutrients and that fresh, crisp snap. Enjoy!

Asparagus Tips

  • A spear is ready to harvest when it’s about the diameter of a pencil or larger, and roughly 8 inches tall.
  • Depending on thickness, you can steam or microwave asparagus for 5 to 8 minutes for the perfect crisp-tender texture.
  • Store asparagus the way you treat cut flowers — upright in a container filled with at least an inch of water.