Asparagus: The King of Vegetables

What vegetable is low in calories, high in fiber, a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, was grown by George Washington at Mt. Vernon and by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello—and tastes delicious?  Asparagus, of course!

The Roman emperor Augustus actually had an Asparagus Fleet—a fleet of ships whose job was to locate and bring back asparagus!  King Louis XIV of France declared asparagus to be the King of Vegetables and Queen Nefertiti declared it to be the Food of the Gods.  I wholeheartedly agree!

Thomas Jefferson had asparagus beds at Monticello and often ate it marinated in oil, red wine vinegar, capers, and herbs.  According to the book, “Dining with the Washingtons” (Nancy Carter Crump, 2011) George Washington preferred the asparagus from his gardens in a ragout with onions, endive, and lettuce.

White asparagus is so prized in Germany that they have a special festival dedicated to it—Spargelzeit.  It runs from April 22 to June 24 and you can even find planned tours of the many villages with music and roadside stands full of “spargel.”  White asparagus is not a separate variety by the way; instead, it’s “made” that way by specific growing conditions.  It has a somewhat more delicate flavor than does green asparagus.

Asparagus is ridiculously good for you.  It’s a very good source of vitamins K, E, Folic Acid, B1, B2, C, selenium, and folates.  It’s high in anthocyanins—an important antioxidant.  It’s also a good source of glutathione—which helps to break down free radicals.  And, as mentioned above, only has 32 calories in a whole cup and is a great source of dietary fiber.

Because it does not have an outer coating like many vegetables, asparagus begins to decline in quality shortly after being picked.  You can keep it best by keeping the cut stems in an inch or so of water.  But fresh is always better.

What could be fresher than growing your own?

Asparagus plants are available now and very easy to grow.  To grow your own, choose a sunny well-draining spot.  Remember that asparagus is perennial and will come back for many years to give it a spot where it can grow undisturbed.

Amend your soil with a mixture of regular compost and composted cow manure.  Because asparagus prefers soil with a neutral pH, test your soil and amend, if necessary.  Loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches and plant crowns two inches below the soil surface.  Space plants two feet apart.

Asparagus does not like to compete for water and nutrients so mulch well and keep weeded.

Do not harvest spears the first season after planting, to allow roots to get well-established.  The second spring harvest no more than two to three spears per plant.  The third year, you can harvest for a period of four to six weeks, or until the new spears being produced are no bigger around than a pencil.

As a bonus, here is my super-easy version of Lemon-Pepper Asparagus:

1 bunch or 1 pound of asparagus
1 teaspoon Lemon-Pepper seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle with garlic salt

I preheat the oven to 400 degrees, drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with the lemon-pepper and garlic salt.  I roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes or until tender.  Yes, I could use fresh-squeezed lemon and fresh ground pepper, but I don’t always have a lemon hanging around.  This way, I don’t have to….

We just got our fresh asparagus crowns so come in and get ready to plant some deliciousness

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