Asparagus (Asparagus Officinalis) is a perennial vegetable that’s also called garden asparagus or sparrow grass. It’s widely cultivated as a vegetable as young shoots are used as a spring vegetable.
Asparagus is a native vegetable to most of Europe and western temperate Asia. Here is a detailed account of what the asparagus plant is and how we use it.
Asparagus is a nutritious plant that comes in various colors, including green, white, and purple. People even use the young shoots, roots, and rhizomes to make medicine. The shoots are also used in different dishes worldwide, including frittatas, pasta, and stir-fries.
The best part about this fantastic veggie is that asparagus is low in calories and packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
|Botanical Name||Asparagus Officinalis|
|Plant Type||A Perennial Vegetable|
|Size (Fully Grown)||5 Feet Tall (About 1,52 Meters) And 3 Feet (About 91 cm) Wide|
|Sun Exposure||Prefers Full Sun|
|Soil Type||Well- draining Soils That Warms Up Quickly In The Spring|
|Soil pH||From 6.0 To 7.0|
|Flower Color||Pale Yellow, Greenish White|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, And 9|
|Native Area||Siberia To Southern Africa|
Different Asparagus Varieties
Like other edible vegetables, many asparagus varieties differ in their taste. And the best part is that asparagus stays productive for a long time. Most of the plants are either green, white, or purple. But, to save you from all gibberish, here are some of the most popular ones:
- UC 157
- Viking KBC
- Jersey Knight
- Purple Passion
- Jersey Supreme
- Mary Washington
- Precoce D’Argenteuil
Origins And History Of The Asparagus Plant
Asparagus’s long history dates back to when it was still growing in ancient Rome and Greece. For example, Greeks and Romans used the Persian word “asparagus,” which meant shoot. And, in ancient Greece, asparagus was a plant with sacred and aphrodisiac virtues.
The Greeks were also interested in asparagus’s biological and pharmaceutical qualities. The plant was also called ” sparrow grass” later in history. Even the Egyptians grew asparagus over 2,000 years ago for medicinal uses. In the wild, the plant was growing as a wild vegetable.
The wild asparagus has thin shoots that are even thinner than a pencil and much different from the plant you usually find in grocery stores.
Later, thanks to growing techniques and selective breeding, asparagus developed a thicker stem with more edible flesh. And if anything else in this article can’t persuade you to eat asparagus, remember that it is also known as “the food of the kings.”
Above all, the plant is a very popular delicacy among its consumer and is widely grown throughout the world. Today, Asparagus is found all over America, China, and Europe.
How To Recognize Asparagus?
Are you a grower that can’t wait for the whole summer to get new produce from your garden to use in your dishes? If yes, you’ll be glad to hear that asparagus is one of the first vegetables ready for harvesting in the spring. But what’s the best part? Asparagus is also a perennial, and I see that as an absolute win if you ask me.
Asparagus looks a lot like a straight spear, and the plant's young shoots that we collect have a unique-looking head, and the parts that make it look so unique are usually called "scale-leaves."
Male plants produce thicker and more giant spears than female plants. The flowers on male plants are also larger and longer than those on females. It makes its flowers in the early summer after the shoots have turned into tall stalks and leafed-out. And the flowers asparagus produces are either white, yellow, or greenish.
How To Grow Asparagus?
Asparagus is a vegetable, and a person growing it needs to have a lot of patience. The main reason for this is because you can’t harvest it in the first year you have sown it. Since it is a perennial plant and will grow in the same spot for several years, you need to find a location where it can get everything it needs.
Asparagus also needs to have a big area which it needs to grow sufficiently. A place of approximately 4 to 5 feet (about 1,22 to 1,5 meters) for each plant should be enough. The reason behind spacing them so widely is because they won’t spread a lot in the first couple of years, but they will, once they get to grow in that spot long enough. Lastly, the time it takes for this plant to mature is three years, so that’s why asparagus is only for patient gardeners.
Remember that once the plant is mature, it's good to cut the plant close to the ground so new growth can start. Apart from its long growing time, asparagus isn't that hard to grow, and growing shouldn't have any significant problems.
For example, removing the dead foliage in the fall could prevent issues like asparagus beetles from over-wintering. But one option is to leave the vegetation on the ground where it works as winter protection.
Try to choose a spot that receives full sun. This way, asparagus will grow firm spears that aren’t weak or prone to problems either.
Temperature And Humidity
To grow this remarkable plant, ensure that the temperature is somewhere around 70 – 85°F (21 – 29°C) during the day and 60 – 70°F (15,5 – 21°C) at night during the growing season. The reason to grow asparagus in that temperature range is that temps above 85°F (about 29°C) or below 55°F (approximately 12,7°C) degrees will slow down the growth.
Soil plays an essential role when you grow asparagus. That’s why it’s a good idea to take the time and improve your soil with plenty of organic matter.
Then there is, of course, the soil pH, which is vital for the proper growth of your plants. This is why you should ensure that it is somewhere in the neutral range, 6.0 to 7.0. Also, don’t forget to remove weeds and large stones in the area before planting.
As I mentioned earlier, to grow asparagus successfully, you need to ensure that the soil is in good condition. This is where fertilizers play an important role.
So, to keep your precious soil fertile, top dress the ground once a year with some fertilizer, preferably compost. But if you don’t have any compost available, applying 10-10-10 fertilizer in the early spring is a good idea.
Asparagus needs a good start when you’ve planted them. This is why the plant needs a couple of water inches each week during the first two growing years.
After the first years, the plant usually survives well with only rainwater, but if you think it won’t, go ahead and water it.
Different Uses For Asparagus
Asparagus isn’t just a great plant to grow. It’s also a great one to use, and it has many different uses!
For starters, the plant is used as an ingredient in different cuisines worldwide. And believe it or not, some people even use it to make medicines! But, I need to remind you that these medicinal properties haven’t been entirely scientifically proven.
Does Asparagus Help Your Skin?
I also have good news for people who want to keep their skin in good condition! You can apply asparagus extract to your skin, which can help treat acne, and most of all, clean your skin.
Does Asparagus Help With Hangovers
Lastly, I have good and perhaps surprising news for everyone who likes to party hard. A study made by the Journal of Food Science in 2009 showed that the amino acids and minerals asparagus extract contains may ease alcohol hangover and protect your liver cells against toxins.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Asparagus?
We have concluded that asparagus has many health benefits and various uses. The plant contains vitamins like A, C, E, K, B6, and fiber.
But is the plant safe for everyone? Are you pregnant, have diabetes, or have pets in your household that may contact this plant? Time to find out if it’s safe for everyone!
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
I have some good news, and you’ll be glad to hear that asparagus is entirely safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The plant contains plenty of folates and is high in vitamin K, so it’s even advisable to add it to your diet during pregnancy.
I want to remind you that asparagus and vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprout, cauliflower, and broccoli can make you gassy. And this can also make your baby gassy if you are still breastfeeding.
As we know, asparagus is a healthy vegetable, and it is that to children as well. The plant is loaded with folate, vitamin K, and fiber, which means that it is an excellent addition to your kids’ plate.
I need to remind you, though, that don't give too big pieces to your kids because they can be a choking hazard.
People With Allergies
If you already have an allergy to plants like leek, garlic, onion, or chives, you should be careful with asparagus as well. Some of the symptoms you might face if you are allergic include hives, itchy red skin, and a runny nose.
People With Diabetes
Lucky for us, studies show that regular consumption of asparagus is an excellent way to prevent and control diabetes.
The plant is completely safe for your household pets, so if your pet happens to eat it accidentally, don’t worry! But I want to remind you that it might be challenging for your pet to digest when asparagus is still raw.
Featured image credit – © anphotos99 – stock.adobe.com