Archive for the 'Asparagus' Category

When to stop cutting asparagus?

asparagusHad our last cut of asparagus three days ago. So there goes another year… and probably just as well. We’d eaten it every other night for 5 weeks. Sick of the stuff.

Technically, you can keep cutting until June 21st. But I never do. If you cut all the way to mid-summer, you weaken the plants and they don’t last as long.

So how do I decide when to stop? Well, this may sound a bit surreal… but I just, kind of, know when. You sense it. The spears produced by your asparagus bed start getting that little bit thinner than they were at first. Plus they slow down. You can almost feel the roots taking a huge breather, trying to gather their strength to keep putting up shoots.

I never put them to the test. The longer the roots get to grow unchecked this year, the thicker and juicier the spears next spring. And the plants will last at least 20 years.

Posted on 13th June 2013
Under: Asparagus | 5 Comments »

First asparagus of 2013

First asparagusVery exciting to see some asparagus at last. More than a month after the earliest date I’ve cut it, but better late than never. This lot will make a very welcome supper.

The potatoes remain a mystery. Still no sign of ’em, and I’m afraid there never will be. One suspicious piece of evidence: I gave a few to my mother, who lives at the opposite end of the country – and none of hers have come up either.

Is there such a thing as dud seed potato?

Postscript, May 10th: Two tiny leaves have finally appeared today. That’s two plants out of 50 seed potatoes planted.

BUT it may mean the others are following on behind. Let’s hope.

Posted on 5th May 2013
Under: Asparagus | 3 Comments »

Damned if it didn’t stop raining… briefly

cauliflower seedlingsO frabjous day! Callooh Callay! It stopped raining!

We have an extraordinary 48-hr sunshine window. Can’t pretend it’s warm – 14C max – but at least it’s not pissing. I’ve enjoyed the first productive gardening day in a month.

asparagus shootsThe cauliflowers are in, and even the asparagus has appeared. At last. Not in time to save the UK asparagus festival, but better late than never.

Jeez, but things look and feel so different in the sunshine. One sees proper colours again, the way God intended… not the washed out, bleached, deathly pallor of life under leaden skies.

We’re back to rain on Monday, but the break has felt like a holiday.

Posted on 12th May 2012
Under: Asparagus, Brassicas | 9 Comments »

Now THAT’S asparagus…

thick asparagus spearsI was chuckling over these as I prepared them. Thick? You bet.

Asparagus spears this thick are inedible unless you shave the bottom few inches (a potato peeler does the trick nicely). But when prepared properly, they are utterly delicious and gorgeously edible from the tip of the spear to the thick bottom stem.

Best of all, you really can’t buy ’em like this in shops. There are millionaires all over the world who – unless they have their own private asparagus beds – can never know what real asparagus is like.

This is because commercial growers grow intensively: beds are planted as close as possible, with the absolute minimum fertiliser/manure input, and spears are harvested ruthlessly from early April until June 21st (or even later).

Consequence: The plants can never produce spears more than a centimetre or so in diameter. If you’re just growing for quality and taste, though, you can lovingly service your asparagus beds. Lots of manure, lots of TLC and a shorter cutting season (I usually stop on June 1st) yields fat, delicious, excellent asparagus.

So kiss my arse, millionaires. I’m eating better than you tonight.

Posted on 15th April 2011
Under: Asparagus | 10 Comments »

First asparagus

asparagusWell, here’s a first: fresh asparagus on April 3rd.

This is my first cut of the year, and the first ever cut from the asparagus bed I put in two years ago.

It’s a bit mad that it’s coming so early. It would normally be mid-April, at the earliest, for the first spears. We’ve had two untypically warm weeks, though, so the soil is warming up already.

Mrs Soilman and I will scoff these tonight with melted butter and perhaps a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.

Mmmmm… there’s nothing like the simple pleasures.

Posted on 3rd April 2011
Under: Asparagus | 12 Comments »

At last: Laziness pays!

asparagus bedIn the finest tradition of only-just-in-time gardening, I prepared the asparagus beds today and made a pleasing discovery.

Turns out that if you’re too lazy to cut down the spent asparagus in November and just leave the old fronds where they are, they fall over and cover the bed… thus excluding light and preventing weeds taking hold over the winter.

Not only that, it’s 10 times easier to clear them up when they’re dry and dead in March than when they’re still bushy and damp in the autumn.

I’ve never done this before and it’s a joyous revelation. How often is the easier, softer way actually better? I’ll tell you: Bloody never.

To anyone who discovered this years ago, apologies for the grandma/egg suck lesson. But if you’re still cutting back your asparagus in November, STOP RIGHT NOW and be a lazy bastard.

You know it makes sense.

Posted on 26th March 2011
Under: Asparagus | 8 Comments »

Come on, come on, come on!

Asparagus tips poking through the soil surfaceThis is getting ridiculous. April 22nd and still not an asparagus spear big enough to cut.

I’ve been fantasising for weeks about just-cut, fresh asparagus, one of the great rewards of growing your own vegetables.

It’s a taste sensation you literally can’t buy – no shop can get it from plant to plate fast enough to preserve the gorgeous sweetness. The only way to enjoy the true flavour of asparagus, as God intended it, is to grow your own.

Trouble is, you have to wait. And Jeez, is the waiting painful.

Posted on 22nd April 2010
Under: Asparagus | 7 Comments »

First asparagus tip!

Asparagus tipI’m stunned how early it’s come. After the winter we’ve endured, I didn’t expect to see any asparagus until May.

Did a few hours at the plot today, but without enthusiasm. The piercing wind and grey skies got to me. If it were July, I’d have ignored it. But after five months of winter – and a tough old winter, at that – I’m just sick of it. Enough already.

That’s the thing with winter: like radiation exposure, it’s cumulative. I totally get what happened to Van Gogh. Always a tad unstable, the poor bastard painted one too many wacky clouds from his garret window and thought: “Right, fuck it. That’s it. Can’t take it any more. Where did I put that gun?”

Posted on 4th April 2010
Under: Asparagus | 7 Comments »

Asparagus beetle eggs

Asparagus beetle eggsYuck, yuck, yuck. Asparagus beetle eggs laid on the tips of the spears.

I don’t get much grief from asparagus beetle. They get squashed, with maximum prejudice, when I spot them. But it’s rare, and they do very little damage to my plants.

They do, however, lay their eggs on my supper. I’m sure they’re fine to eat, but I do find myself assiduously scraping them off. It’s the thought, you see: creepy-crawly eggs. Yikes. I’m a non-celebrity allotmenteer – get me out of here!

Posted on 28th May 2009
Under: Asparagus, Pests | 3 Comments »

Summer comes early…?

First year asparagus

If this is a taste of what’s to come, I’m all for it.

Today was sensational. Sunny, warm, barely a breath of wind. And the vegetables are loving it.

This is the asparagus I planted in early April. The fronds are a bit feeble, but that’s to be expected in their first year. They’ll thicken up well next season.

Sadly, I can’t attack ’em even then; you shouldn’t cut asparagus until its third year. Just as well I’ve got another established bed, which is still producing enough spears for dinner four times a week.

We’ll be SO sick of it by mid June.

Posted on 24th May 2009
Under: Asparagus, Summer | 8 Comments »