Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grow, Eat, Enjoy - Asparagus


While opinions vary on what constitutes a good diet, everyone agrees on the benefit of freshly grown food. Whether you grow it yourself, or pick it up at a farmer's market, the quality of food right off the plant is unbeatable.

Nothing says spring time to me then asparagus. It is also one of those vegetables that benefits from being freshly picked. If you've only had frozen or canned asparagus, you haven't yet eaten asparagus.
I know everyone doesn't like asparagus. I'll warn you, at our house, you don't say you don't like something, you just have not yet learned to like it. I tell the children to eat a bite or two at every meal, and they will soon like it. So far, three children have proved me right on asparagus and the two year old doesn't yet count. (And yes, I fully admit that my personal food dislikes are because I never learned to like them. And I never intend to give squid, sushi, or coffee a fair chance!)

Grow

Asparagus is one of the cheapest easiest vegetables to grow. Six years ago we bought 25 plants for $10.50. The first two years we harvested very little as we waited for the plants to become established. Since then we have had about a six week harvest each spring. In colder weather I pick every other day. In warmer weather, I pick every day. Each picking is one or two pounds.

I don't know exactly how much we pick but VERY conservatively, I'd say that we pick 30 lb a year. The market near us sells asparagus at $4.00 a pound. So at the very least, we are picking $120.00 worth of asparagus a year. After the initial investment of plants, we have had no further expense. Asparagus is a perennial and can produce for many many years. See why I call it one of the cheapest vegetables to grow?

The labor spent to grow asparagus is also minimal. Harvesting asparagus is as simple as cutting it off close to the ground, trimming off any tough ends and preparing to eat. Sometime in June, the asparagus stalks become thinner. When they are only as thick as a pencil, I quit picking and allow the stalks to grow into huge ferny plants that are rather pretty. We keep the plants mulched to avoid weeding throughout the summer.

In the fall, I cut down all the stalks, add manure or compost to the bed and cover with a thick layer of mulch, either grass clippings or leaves. Nothing else needs done until the warm spring air awakens the plants to push out new stalks.

The only pest I've had to deal with is the asparagus beetle which lays tiny black eggs along the stalk. If I see the beetle on the stalks, I squash them. Otherwise, I wash off the eggs and they don't really do much damage. I do remove the stalks far from the bed in the fall in hopes to keep any overwintering beetles away from the patch.

Eat 


Hands down, our favorite way to eat asparagus is Stacked Asparagus.

Other favorites
Skillet Asparagus

 

Sausage Asparagus Skillet

 

Great Green Vegetable Pasta

Crustless Quiche with Ham and Asparagus

Asparagus is also known to show up on pizza, in a wrap and on a salad at our house. We like asparagus. Need I say more?

I don't like frozen asparagus, preferring to eat it several times a week when in season, then turning to other vegetables the rest of the year. I do freeze a couple bags for a pot of asparagus soup in the winter. My sister-in-law just shared a yummy version with me. When I try her recipe, I'll share it with you.

Now it is your turn...
How do you do like asparagus?
Any other growing tips?

18 comments :

  1. I used to hate asparagus. I didn't grow up eating it and my first exposure to it was when my mother-in-law would make it. The only way she ever made it was boiled. It smelled like canned peas (which I haven't yet learned to like) - probably because they were canned, too - and I just couldn't stomach it. In an effort to expand our vegetable repertoire I bought some fresh asparagus a couple of years ago and simply roasted it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar (lemon juice is great, too), salt and pepper. It has quickly become one of my family's most favorite veggies! The key for us was eating it fresh.

    I would love to add it to our garden, but heard that it takes a lot of space, which we don't have. Do you find that a lot of space is needed? Also, your recipes incorporating look delicious, but I was wondering about the white sauce...I'm not familiar with that and have no idea what would be in it.

    Hope you had a lovely weekend!
    Pam

    PS. I'm enjoying your addition updates. That must be very exciting for you. :0)

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  2. We eat a lot of asparagus. Quite frankly I hate it...but another story. I think with our climate here it is more difficult to grow. That said we have quite a patch which took a few years to get on. I find the most difficult part about growing it is keeping the long grass off it. The grass chokes it out and only the heavy plants survive.

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  3. Thanks for sharing Gina. We really enjoy asparagus, and just planted a dozen plants. I was disappointed when the instructions stated that we should not harvest until the 3rd spring! But I will have to save your recipes - thanks again!:)

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  4. Pam -
    I want to try your idea of roasting it. Sounds yummy!

    You might say it takes lots of space. I forget that not everyone have the space available that we have. It is a nice plant to place along a border since it gets so tall in the summer. We have it along our fence. I think the plants are to be a foot apart. We have about a 20 foot row. It is probably three feet wide.

    A white sauce is simply a sauce made of butter, flour and milk. I use 2 T butter and 2 T flour, melt and mix into a paste, add 1 cup milk and heat until thick. Season with salt and pepper.

    Gina

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  5. We all love asparagus except my hubby. Our two favorite ways to eat it are fried and asparagus soup. I'm going to try pickled asparagus this year. I think you should give coffee at least one more try. :)

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  6. dear gina,
    i like asparagus also.my family like
    maccaroni with asparagus and mozzarella,asparagus creamsoup or a quiche with asparagus. your recipes
    looks very delicious.thanks for sharing.
    your new family room looks nice.
    have a nice week,
    blessings regina

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  7. Gina,

    I love the recipe ideas using asparagus. I usually roast asparagus or place on the grill. I really enjoy asparagus in any recipe. Thanks for your ideas!

    Blessings,
    Debbie S.

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  8. Hi!
    I'm not fond of asparagus. Although my hubby loves the stuff. Have a great day!

    Sherrie
    Food for Thought

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  9. Great information, lots of folks will plant this delicious veggie now.

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  10. Our lawn keeps diminishing as I add new veggies every year--asparagus might be our future!

    Our favorite is roasted with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Yum!

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  11. We eat it grilled, bbq-ed or blanched. YUM! goes with everything.
    I was the same about olives, hated them, but I loved all the Mediterranean foods that went with them so I had one a day until I liked them.
    x

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  12. Definitely try roasting or grilling them!!! That is the BEST way to eat them! Lay them in a single layer directly on the grill or on a flat pan/cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until fork tender, turning once. OR roast in a 425* oven until tender, turning once. YUMMY!!

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  13. Love that you are using leaves for coverage. We discussed growing Asparagus just yesterday. Our kids are still at the force them to try it stage. I personally love asparagus.

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  14. When we moved here we transplanted some of our asparagus plants. They haven't done well at all. I don't think it transplants too well. However we also planted it near the rhubarb, but the rhubard takes over to soon. We've decided to get some new root and plant somewhere else. I do miss having fresh asparagus. We like it steamed with a little butter, that's it. It really doesn't even need any butter. My Mom used to alway make a white sauce and it is good that way if you have children especially. I just like it plain.

    Hope we have some more in a couple years :)

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  15. I love asparagus! We have a patch in a raised bed that is just getting established. This year was the first year we were able to cut any. My favorite ways to eat it is grilled (tossed with olive oil and seasonings prior to grilling) and a fresh veggie quiche. Thanks for the tips on raising it. We had never seen it in a garden before.

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  16. I am bookmarking this page in hopes to get the asparagus bed started again next year. Sigh...

    I HAD asparagus. I have no idea what happened to it though. It did NOT come back this year at all. I am thinking that when someone (who was helping me... ergh...) cleaned up my beds in the fall they PULLED the asparagus out by the roots. Not sure how else I would have lost them.

    At any rate... will try again...

    Take care!
    Dee

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  17. I very much look forward to reading all your tips as I really appreciate your garden and organic practices! I can't wait. Thank you for doing this! Wow.

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  18. Hi Gina,
    Our asparagus is not doing very well this year. But we have enough as only 2 of us eat it. Our favorite way to eat it is stir fried in a little olive oil and seasoned with garlic and herbs.
    Have a bountiful summer!
    Lynette Nell
    PS. My youngest graduated this year. Can you believe it!!

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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