Eat, Grow, Cook ~ Asparagus

For us folks here in the southern hemisphere, we are lucky to be enjoying my favourite season - SPRING! Time to pack away the winter woolies, pull out the summer sundresses, hats and flip flops and enjoy the bright blue skies, sunny spring sunshine and the scent of a million flowers blooming (unless you have hay fever like me and that's not such a good thing). Not to mention time to enjoy the fruits that spring has to offer... fresh asparagus!
I posted a picture on facebook a week or so ago of our asparagus patch and the harvest that we have been reaping over the last couple of weeks. A lot of you were intrigued as to how asparagus is grown and how you go about harvesting it. So I thought I would bring in my dear brother and avid gardener to share with you some hints, tips and facts about growing, harvesting asparagus. I'll also share with you a totally delish recipe at the end of how to use fresh asparagus in a simple but totally delectable way! I'll hand you over to my brother Matt....

Let me introduce myself, my name is Matt and I am well and truly addicted to Gardening. This year my wife, 6 month old daughter and I are trying to become self-sufficient in our fresh salad and vegetables. Our techniques and approach to gardening is heavily influenced by Permaculture and Organic Gardening. You can follow our blog at Wally's Mini Farm to follow our journey to self-sufficiency.

What do you think of when you think of asparagus. I must admit until recently I used to shudder as I thought about trying to eat those soggy army green pieces of asparagus.But fresh asparagus is worlds apart from the canned stuff I am talking about. Fresh asparagus is delicious, especially when wrapped in prosciutto and grilled for a few minutes. Yummy!!!

Interested in growing your own? Well it isn't that hard when you know a few basic things about the plant.The first thing you will need is a little bit of patients because a young asparagus plant won't produce edible spears until it is two or three years old. The good news is that once they are established they can go on producing for 20 years or more.

You can raise asparagus from seed but you will have better success buying an established crown or seedlings. (*You can generally by these from your local nursery) When selecting your varieties I would recommend the hybrid 'UC 157' (can be harvested as early as one or two years) or 'Fat Bastard' (vigorous and produces thick spears) . The heirloom varieties called 'Mary  Washington' (vigorous) or 'Sweet purple' (Italian variety which is very tender and flavoursome) are well worth growing.

The best time to plant out a young asparagus seedling or crown is in late winter to early spring. Choose a spot that you can leave undisturbed in full sun and is sheltered from wind. Make sure that the soil drains well and is enriched with compost, well rotted manure and lime. Dig a 10cm deep trench and plant the crowns 50 cm apart (for seedlings plant in small holes instead of a trench). If the soil doesn't drain well add gypsum and plant the asparagus in ridges.

The main problem you could experience is rotting if the soil doesn't drain well. Raised garden beds and planting in ridges helps solve this. To avoid other issues don't plant in soil that you have grown tomatoes, capsicum or strawberries in recent years. Also Asparagus doesn't like acidic soil so if the pH falls below 6.5 make sure you add lime.

Maintaining your asparagus is fairly simple. Fertilise it with compost, well rotted manures and liquid fertiliser in spring. When the shoots go completely brown in Autumn  cut them back to ground level. When your plants are mature you can harvest your spears when they are 10-15 cm long and about as thick as your finger. You should stop harvesting in December to give your plants time to build up reserves to survive winter.

If you follow these basic steps you should be happily harvesting your asparagus for many years to come. For any questions you might have you can contact me on my blog  Wally's Mini Farm. Happy gardening!!!

Thanks Matt for your insight on how to grow and harvest asparagus - I hope that it has inspired you to plant some of your own. Having our own asparagus patch not only has saved us money but the rewards of freshly picked asparagus is something you cannot buy! I created this recipe as a simple, yet flavoursome weeknight meal or sunday supper. Something that you could throw together in under 15 minutes (if you have your fish thawed/freshly bought) The flavours of the oily salmon paired with the tender, yet slightly crunchy asparagus just hollers spring! Fresh, simple, elegant and healthy! Give it a go!

Salmon with Almonds & Asparagus

by The Whimsical Wife
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Keywords: grill entree salad main spring
Ingredients (Serves 2)
  • 200g piece of salmon, skin on
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 pieces of asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons flaked almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • wedges of lemon
Place a pan over a medium to high heat. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of the oil over the fish, add the parsley and a grind of salt and pepper. Massage the oil and parsley over the fish and place skin side down on the grill pan.
Cook for 5 minutes and turn and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from pan and cover with foil to keep warm. (* If you like your fish rarer cook for less time)
Wipe the pan out and add a tablespoon of oil to heat up.
Toss in the asparagus stalks a let them sizzle for 30-40 seconds charring and going brown.
Add in the garlic and chilli flakes and toss the aspargus through it.
Continue to cook for a further 1 minute until the asparagus is slightly tender.
Toss the flaked almonds through the asparagus and cook for another 30 seconds to brown the almonds slightly.
Remove the asparagus and almonds from the pan and divide between two plates.
Divide the piece of salmon into small chunks and place on top of the asparagus. Finish off with the remaining olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
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I took this shot late one afternoon as I was harvesting some asparagus for dinner from our vegetable patch.......

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