Okay, I freely admit it. I’m very food-motivated when it comes to gardening. I’m more likely to weed the vegetable garden than the flower beds. I’m more likely to spend money on a packet of carrot seeds than marigold seeds. And my favorite plant to see popping out of the ground each spring is my asparagus.
To me, asparagus is the first sign of spring. It’s true, my daffodils emerge from the ground much earlier. But many times, these spring bloomers get hit with a late season snowstorm. Nothing reinforces the depressing notion of an everlasting winter more than seeing those beautiful yellow and white flowers weighed down with several inches of snow.
Likewise, seeing the grass green up is also not something I can count on as the first sign of spring. Here in Northern Ohio, we occasionally have a mild winter and the grass never does turn brown. And while I’ve usually had to cut the grass at least once before the asparagus pops, I also don’t consider the not-so-fun mowing chores to be an enjoyable first sign of spring.
Spring is a time of renewal — a new promise for a prosperous gardening year — the start of the growing season. Yeah, yeah, whatever! To me, spring is the start of the homegrown veggie-eating season! And the first garden vegetable to hit my plate is asparagus. And recently, I tried my hand at growing white asparagus.
Discovering Asparagus Crowns
Oddly enough, my garden-loving parents never grew asparagus. As a kid, I certainly never had any inclination to try new vegetables, especially one with a funny-sounding name like asparagus. But I didn’t know what I was missing until I was an adult and a gardening friend asked me if I’d like some fresh asparagus.
As I headed home with a handful of asparagus spears and tips for cooking this strange new veggie, I have to admit I was dubious. Unlike the spindly-thin spears in the grocery store or the mushy canned version, I soon found fresh-from-the-garden homegrown asparagus is an entirely different vegetable. It wasn’t long before I planted my own asparagus crowns.
If you’ve only ever tried asparagus from the grocery and found you didn’t care for it, I implore you to try it fresh from the garden. Simply sauté those fresh-picked spears in a little butter until tender-crisp and bright green. And if you find the “grassy” flavor too strong for your liking, consider growing white asparagus.
Growing White Asparagus
White asparagus has a milder flavor than green. Growing white asparagus is easily accomplished by depriving the early sprouts of sunlight. I begin in early spring, before the sprouts begin to emerge from the ground. I cut down the dried dead foliage from the previous year. Then I pile my first grass clippings of the season about 1 foot (.3 m.) deep over the buried asparagus crowns.
I can easily locate the asparagus sprouts since they push up the grass in a telltale fashion. I simply push the grass aside to harvest asparagus spears. A quick rinse removes any stuck-on grass clippings and my asparagus is pan-ready.
Although I discovered asparagus later in life, I can’t imagine spring without it.