One has to be patient when growing asparagus; it’s a true slow food.  

Having grown up in a remote mediterranean climate, we have always regarded asparagus as the ultimate luxury food.  We were determined to grow it as soon as we had the space.  

In early spring 2017 we planted eight asparagus crowns.  A few thin shoots appeared in the first year – enough for us to confirm that we had the right species of plant, but only just.  We carefully kept the bed free of weeds all year and in the second season the shoots were a bit thicker and a bit more numerous.  The problem was, only half of the crowns did anything, so we planted some replacement crowns late in the season, which put them two seasons behind. 

In the third season we were sorely tempted to harvest.  The shoots really looked like asparagus spears, albeit thin ones.  However, we held back, did our weeding and waited.  That year the summer fronds got properly tall for the first time and turned an attractive shade of yellow in the autumn.  There were even berries on some of them.

In season four we finally got to harvest and indeed the spears came up properly thick, so we knew that waiting had been the right thing to do.  And yes, it was worth the wait.  

We also noticed some tiny shoots in a spot where there was no crown, and wondered whether the berries had germinated.   We let the berries ripen to red, and when I cut down the spent foliage in November I tried planting them to fill in the gaps in the bed. 

This year is season five, our second harvesting year, with four productive crowns, enough for asparagus once a week.  We’re getting a variety of spear thicknesses and it seems to be OK to leave the thin ones to grow into fronds, while other spears keep on coming.   At some point we’ll stop harvesting and let the plant get on with its summer foliage – a frothy green filigree that adds interest to the garden. 

Next year there will be seven productive crowns.  Excitingly, we have several forests of little shoots from the berries that we planted as well.  I think we’ll have to wait some years for those to mature, but what’s a few more years now that we are this far along the journey?  

Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.

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