How To Plant and Grow Wild Asparagus
Wild Asparagus Shoot.
Asparagiae and Asparagus Plant
Searching for Asparagus in the Countryside
For everything you need to know about 'how to plant wild asparagus' please see this Hub with all the information you will need, to help you forage for the asparagus plant and more.
- How to identify it (since it is really camouflaged among the grasses),
- Where and when to find it
- How to dig it out (with the crown or root) of the ground (see the video!)
- Plant from the crown, or
- Plant it from seed.
- How fun it is to pick
- How to prepare a wild asparagus pasta dish!
How to Identify Wild Asparagus Plants.
The wild asparagus plant, produced without any assistance or manipulation, Nature's gift, is a fine bush of green angel's hair - ghostly fine and fuzzy looking. Country people here in Tuscany call the areas where the plant grows wild asparagiaia. The asparagus shoot grows independently from the plant, straight up, sticking from the ground like miniature fleshy Chrysler buildings. It is slimmer than its cultivated brother and unlike him, the stems are not pale but a camouflage-green. (It can be almost brown in color if it is in a shady area. It will be pale green if it stands in the sunlight all day long). People who are good at spotting wild asparagus would also be good at spotting octopus in coral. It takes a well trained eye, but once you spot it, like kissing you will never forget it.
Looking for the Wild Plants
For this asparagus (crown) hunt you will need:
- A garden trowel
- A basket or some sort, or, bucket or sack to put the crowns in
- a walking stick (to move back prickly plants, make sure there are no snakes)
- long pants
- hiking boots or sturdy shoes or even wellington boots if it is raining.
Did you know?
- There are records of the same wild asparagus we have growing in our hedgerows in Tuscany as the wild asparagus found growing in Ancient Greece and Rome.
- Egyptians cultivated it from wild 2,000 years ago.
- It comes from the Persian word "asparg" which means shoot.
- It stimulates erotic desires. An Arabian love manual provides a aphrodisiac recipe since it contains plenty of vitamin A and C and taken over three consecutive days will have a most powerful effect!
Where to Forage for Asparagus Crowns.
When you go foraging, you will find wild asparagus thriving today in North America and Western Europe in gritty, grassy areas along walls, ditches, field borders, park fences, reservoir banks, wooded areas, rural roadsides, prairies and inaccessible sea slopes - if you can spot it!
Look for it where it thrives - at the edges of undergrowth - where the sun shines. There the fine pale-green, ghostly, bushes quietly hide among the stronger undergrowth leaves and twigs. The green asparagus shoot will be standing in front of your eyes, slightly aside the plant, sometimes as far away as three feet, independent and proud as it is, and at first you just can't see it, till, there it is! You recognize it. And another one. And more. The asparagus plant loves lots of space underground and produces more asparagus shoots as the spring season goes on. It needs to be wild. (Some farmers plant it alongside ditches to stop erosion because of its extensive root formation).
A word of warning! Trespassing private property is unlawful, since it is considered theft to dig plants from land you do not own. Either you'd need to procure the landowner's permission, (perhaps offer his wife a box of chocolates, promise to close the gates after you and not litter. Try all sincere ploys. You could even offer the farmer some of your asparagus. Why not?)
How Wild Asparagus Shoots Grow Near the Plant
New Asparagus Plant.
How to Take Out the Plants.
Please have a look at the video!
You locate your asparagus plants on a walk where you know you will find them. Here in Tuscany they will be in the asparagaie - a whole area known to the locals, and me, where asparagus grows everywhere.
The plant in the video was taken out of the ground in late spring because it was easy to get at, by the side of the driveway. However the ideal time would be late Summer when the plant has yellow dried.
With your trowel, you dig round the plant, ideally after a showers, because the ground is moist. The bigger the plant, the bigger the area you dig round the base. (Ours was nice and small, so the crown is small, so the area around the plant was only a few inches). The bigger the plant the more asparagus it will yield.
For larger plants, dig proportionately wider (say 12" wide on a large plant) and deep (about 12- 20" depending on the size of the plant) in order not to damage the crowns.
You take the crowns carefully out of the soil (see video)..
Plant the Wild Asparagus!
When to plant asparagus.
Smaller plants like ours, taken out of the ground at the end of spring need to be planted straight away before the roots dry.
They are hardy and often survive with little attention,
- as long as the soil is well-drained and moist,
- they have about 6 ft of space round them in all directions for their roots to do their thing - and in a sunny location.
- Water them for a few weeks
- Then, you may leave them through the summer.
If you dig up your wild asparagus crowns at the end of Summer however, you can keep them in a dry place through the winter, (such as your garden shed, or barn, or garage).
Plant them in early spring (after threat of frost).
Planting by the Side of the House.
Where to Plant the Asparagus Crowns
We plant our asparagus plants along the side of the house where there is a gritty soil and a lot of sun. To show how extremely content they are, each year another asparagus plant waves bushy, frizzy-green against the stone walls; nearby a tender shoot springs up. Interestingly, many other market garden plants do not do as well as our wild asparagus in that area, such as peppers and egg plant. We think it is because the soil isn't rich enough for them there.
Asparagus crowns with (or without) their little tuft of green shoots, can be planted in rows in a market garden like other proud market garden vegetables; in tilled, well watered, mulched earth, high soil pH values (around 7.0). leaving about five feet between each crown for root growth.
I think they do very well planted at a distance from each other all along garden fences, or at the back of gardens where they can spread out and multiply randomly, which they like. A good idea is to plant them along driveways to keep the banks in place. It would be like a homecoming for them and they would trumpet their happiness.
You can harvest asparagus to eat all through the spring season (from late February till May when the grass is too high to pick them - they have begun to dry in the hotter sun, and turned weedy to look at, almost flowery). Each shoot can grow six or seven inches a day after rainfall, when the sun shines.
At the end of spring the unpicked asparagus stems grow in a wild way, bending this way and that, getting fine and - becoming the plants of the next year.
Another system for planting wild asparagus is from wild asparagus seeds, but it takes twice as long to get to eat the asparagus because it takes 10 weeks for them to germinate, before you see any green growth. Then, if your patience can stand it, for two years you wait until the roots promulgate and the plant grows and produces for a decent production (instead of one lonely asparagus at a time, in two years you could have five or six.)
Seeds come from the red pods which grow on the female asparagus plant. Pick the pods off the plant in late summer.
- Plant them, one by one, in garden center container cells and keep them watered. Don't forget them while all the other plants come out and do their thing. Asparagus shoots are slow performers! Erotically so.
- Water daily
- Prepare the soil outdoors after ten weeks; till it and add grit or sand if it is clay like. Humus will lighten it too.
- replant the roots 6" deep in the soil in the Spring ( approx 1 ft apart and 6 ft between rows because the root extends for many feet around).
- Mulch it (they would love dried seaweed) to keep weeds at bay.
- A good idea is to plant garlic round the area to keep unwanted parasites away.
- Harvest (lots of times) after two years.
Wild Asparagus is Free.
Wild asparagus emerges as winter is beginning to bore us and before spring actually takes its first leap. It's an ante-spring thing, a pre-delizia. It is the epitome of the promising of what is to come. Wild asparagus is a freak, tastes crazy and is much better than the cultivated variety from glasshouses. It's the real thing. It's the difference say between a nap in the sun with your lover and an eight hour rest on a Permaflex.
It doesn't cost anything.
So easy to plant and grow and continue to produce asparagus shoots, for fifteen years
It tastes delicious!
Recipe idea from aTuscany farmhouse.
Taste it finely chopped and tossed in a small pan with olive oil, chopped garlic and cilli pepper, poured over spaghetti (aldente), grated pecorino cheese on the top, eaten just as soon as you get your boots off.
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© 2012 Penelope Hart
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