Hope Springs Eternal

Our asparagus patch grew by twenty-one plants last week. Exciting. But not as exciting as the fact that this year we can finally cut from the first ones we planted three years ago.

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A lot of people don’t seem entirely clear on where asparagus comes from. The ground, of course, but how? And exactly what part of the plant are we eating?

Asparagus plants are tall ferns. They die back in the fall and reemerge in the spring. What we plant is the crown, which looks a little bit like an octopus with many extra tentacles.  The part of the asparagus we eat is the shoot that comes up in the spring. It pushes up out of the soil just as you see in the photo. When it’s of an appropriate height, we’ll cut along the soil line.

For this year, we’ll only cut for about two weeks, so that these still-young plants can continue to direct their energy towards growing strong roots. Each year we can add another two weeks to our harvest, up to about eight weeks for plants over six years old. The plants should live twenty years or so, and we plan to add new ones periodically to keep the patch going strong.

I love the inherent optimism in perennial gardening. Planting food today for people to enjoy in twenty years’ time is hope made material.

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