I know Spring is here because the asparagus is popping through the dirt in the garden. I haphazardly threw these into the bed last year and didn’t give them a second thought. This year, with my decision to revamp my goals for our vegetable garden, I purchased more “crowns” and planted them again with a little more thought and care. I was surprised a few weeks later to find these little guys making an appearance.
Asparagus are perennial plants and these babies will give me a Spring harvest for many years to come. It is native to most of the western coasts of Europe as both a vegetable and medicine. History shows asparagus as having healing and cleansing properties. Asparagus is low in sodium and calories and has a wealth of health benefits.
“Asparagus has long been recognized for its medicinal properties,” wrote D. Onstad, author of Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers and Lovers of Natural Foods. “Asparagus contains substances that act as a diuretic, neutralize ammonia that makes us tired, and protect small blood vessels from rupturing. Its fiber content makes it a laxative, too.”
Stem thickness indicates the age of the plant, the thicker the stem the older the plant. Thicker stems should be peeled back to remove the hard outer layer.
If growing asparagus yourself, crowns should be planted in winter or very early spring (when the ground can be worked). Asparagus makes a good companion plant for tomatoes as the tomato plant repels the asparagus beetle, as do several other common companion plants of tomatoes. Meanwhile, asparagus may repel some harmful root nematodes that affect tomato plants.
If purchasing from your local farmer’s market or grocer, Look for asparagus that is as green (or purple or white in the case of purple and white varieties) as possible to up your chances as biting into tender spears.
Asparagus can be grilled, steamed, broiled, roasted, and even raw in salads. There are so many ways in which to prepare asparagus, but here are some of my favorite recipes.