The fleshy green spears of asparagus are both succulent and tender and have been considered a delicacy since ancient times. This highly prized vegetable arrives with the coming of spring, when its shoots break through the soil and reach their 6-8 inch harvest length. In California the first crops are picked as early as February, however, their season generally is considered to run from April through May.
And not only is asparagus delicious—it’s also packed with health benefits: It’s loaded with nutrients: Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
It can help fight cancer: This herbaceous plant—along with avocado, kale and Brussels sprouts—is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.
How to grow asparagus
Asparagus is planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. The plant is grown from “crowns” (1-year-old plants). Eliminate all weeds from the bed, digging it over and working in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost, manure or soil mix. Dig trenches of about 6 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches deep.
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.
IF you love asparagus and want to grow some yourself, waste no time in getting started. Even with the best of care, an asparagus bed won’t hit its stride for several years. But once that happens, the bed will produce an abundant crop of spears spring after spring for at least the next 20 to 30 years.
Keep in mind that you need to add soil every once in a while, until it is a little mounded around the base of the asparagus.
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