Growing asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a long-term commitment, but well worth the effort. It will grow from seed or transplanted crowns. Be warned that if you grow from seed, you may have to wait several years before you harvest anything. If you can get a hold of crowns, plant them at 50cm intervals at a depth of around 10cm.
Asparagus is best to plant in late winter or early spring (in temperate climates). Shoots will emerge from the ground with fern like foliage. This foliage should die off in the following autumn. Once completely dead, cut the foliage back close to the ground. Plants will re-sprout the following spring, only to die off in autumn: this is the normal lifecycle and you will need to wait around 2 or 3 years for good, thick spears. For really healthy plants apply a liquid fertiliser in spring.
If you have late frosts, cover the emerging tips with hay until it warms up. Slugs and snails find asparagus quite tasty, so spread some bait around. Asparagus is sensitive to Fusarium and Violet root rot, so don’t grow it in areas previously planted with tomatoes, capsicums or strawberries.
Once the spears are of a satisfactory size, slice them off just below ground level. Asparagus can start emerging as early as late August. Harvest the tips every year and asparagus will keep growing for many years.
Marinated asparagus salad
2 cups chunky asparagus pieces
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup of your favourite Italian salad dressing
Boil or steam the asparagus until only just tender. Drain well. Combine asparagus with remaining ingredients, stirring gently. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir again before serving. Serves six.
If the bottom part of the asparagus is not as tender as the top; try peeling the skin from the bottom.
You can eat asparagus raw. Try picking a tip and eating it straight from the garden.
Cook asparagus and serve with Hollandaise sauce.