Asparagus has been used as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavor, diuretic properties, and more. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC. Still in ancient times, it was known in Syria and in Spain. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter; Romans would even freeze it high in the Alps, for the Feast of Epicurus. Emperor Augustus reserved the “Asparagus Fleet” for hauling the vegetable, and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” for quick action.
It is a good source of vitamin B, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, rutin,niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, as the asparagus plant is relatively rich in this compound.
Sun: Full Sun in spring and fall/ Partial Shade in summer
Height: 18cm (7in)
Soil Ph: 6.5-7.5
Days To Maturity: 730
Sowing Method: Direct Sow Outdoors
Keep the asparagus bed weed free by hand, rather than using a hoe, as the shallow roots are easily damaged. Mulch the bed in late winter with weed-free compost to discourage weeds and to retain moisture. Consider covering the bed from autumn to winter with an opaque weed mat to prevent annual weeds germinating.
In early spring, apply 100g per sq m (3oz per sq yd) of general fertiliser such as Growmore, or fish, blood and bone. If growth is weak, repeat this application once harvesting has finished.
To avoid the top-growth breaking in windy weather and damaging the crowns, use stakes and garden twine to make a ‘fence’ either side of the row for support.
Allow the foliage of your asparagus plants to yellow in autumn before cutting it down to soil level for the winter.
Asparagus plants are either male or female. Male plants produce more and better spears, so many modern cultivars are all-male. If any female plants do appear, they will be noticeable because they produce orange-red berries. If you are growing an all-male cultivar, you will need to remove any female plants as well as any seedlings that appear.