How to Grow Asparagus
Establish an asparagus bed and reap rewards for years.
Graceful stalks of asparagus break through the early spring soil.
In some parts of the country it grows wild, and in others it is a significant cash crop. Word of its first appearance, whether in the garden, grocery store or fencerow, creates a wave of whispers among friends eager to experience that sumptuous springtime flavor. I’m talking about asparagus, not some elusive springtime mushroom. A harbinger of longer days and delicious dinners, asparagus is a wonderful spring sight, and it has been for centuries; following is all you need to know about how to grow asparagus.
Records indicate asparagus is one of the earliest vegetables humans ever cultivated. It is thought to have been first grown by the Macedonians in approximately 200 B.C., and appears in Egyptian tomb drawings as early as 4000 B.C. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it for medicinal purposes; the Greeks believed it was a cure-all for nearly every ailment. It spread throughout Europe when the conquering Romans brought it with them to foreign lands. In France in the 1600s, King Louis XIV ordered greenhouses built for it to suit his lover’s belief that it improved his prowess behind closed doors. From Europe, asparagus was brought to the newly formed American colonies, and entrenched itself both in the wild and in our gardens.
Packed with minerals and vitamins, asparagus is a powerhouse among vegetables, delivering a more complete balance of nutrients than any other. It’s teeming with good things such as vitamins A, B6 and C, with iron, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin. High in fiber and low in carbohydrates, asparagus contains no fat, no cholesterol and has only 20 calories per ½-cup serving.
A serving also provides more folic acid and glutathione than any other vegetable. A single serving of asparagus has more than half the recommended daily allowance of the folic acid needed for blood cell formation, prevention of liver disease and decreased risk of neural tube birth defects. Studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute found glutathione, a potent cancer-fighting agent, to be higher in asparagus than any other food tested.
Cultivate an interest
The place of asparagus as a nutrient-rich vegetable can’t be disputed, but for a vegetable that has been cultivated for millennia, there are plenty of differing opinions about how to grow it – ranging from what type of soil to what the optimum pH level of that soil should be; how much water it requires, when to harvest, how to harvest and what size spears are the best. Even the proper way to eat asparagus is the subject of heated discussion. All of this conflicting information might make growing asparagus seem daunting to the home gardener, but all it takes is some preparation and patience. Considering the health benefits it provides, and also the price of fresh asparagus in markets, it is well worth the effort to grow your own.
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