When to harvest asparagus?

  1. Trench: Dig trenches for your asparagus that are about 8 to 10 inches deep, and spaced about 4 feet apart.
  2. Fertilizer: Spread a phosphorus fertilizer in the bottom of the trench. A 0-20-0 fertilizer is ideal (the numbers and dashes describe the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively, in a fertilizer). The organic fertilizer option here is a good thick layer of bone meal.
  3. Plant the crowns: Place the purchased asparagus crowns flat in the trench, right on the layer of fertilizer. Space them 12 inches to 18 inches apart. Cover with about two inches of soil, and water the area lightly.
  4. Replenish the soil: As soon as 2 inches of new growth appears, backfill the trench with more soil. Do this several times as new growth appears until the trench is filled in.
  5. Maintenance: Keep the area weed free, and fertilize annually with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer each spring.
  6. First harvest: In the third year, make your first harvest a light one. Once the plants become more robust in subsequent years, you can harvest more heavily. If you notice a decline in robustness after several years, you may want to divide and transplant your asparagus.

Harvesting Asparagus

This is what you have been waiting for harvesting asparagus time!

Hang on, Slow down, are you sure? is it time yet? The last thing you want to do after spending all that time making sure you know how to grow asparagus is to start harvesting asparagus at the wrong time, cut too many asparagus spears and weaken you asparagus bed for years to come. So lets think about how to harvest asparagus. Advice varies but there is a common theme. You must not harvest too much too soon or you will weaken your plants.

Year 0 – seed planting (if you started this way) – obviously no cutting

Year 1 – transplanting crowns / planting crowns – once planted just leave the plants to grow (no cutting to eat)

Year 2 – 1st cutting maybe? Advice varies from no cutting at all this year to cutting just one stem per plant to possibly cutting for two weeks. Please be patient and let them grow. Maybe try talking to them, you never know it might help!!!

Year 3 – 1st real year of cutting. Some suggest that you can now cut for a full season others suggest cutting for just 3 – 5 weeks.

Year 4 and onwards – by now if you have been patient you should be able to work up to cutting for an 8 week season.

In no year should you be considering asparagus harvesting for more than 8 weeks from the first cutting or you will weaken your crop for the following year.

Whichever year you are in you need to cut your asparagus when it reaches about 4-6inches (10-15cm)in length.

How Big Should the Spears be When I Cut them?

You need to cut the spears before the tips start to open up to form asparagus ferns. When the tips open up a substance called Lignin is produced which makes the bottom part of the stalk tougher. This is the plants way of preparing the stalks to bear the weight of the ferns. You want to cut the spears before they reach this stage.

You will get to learn how tall your spears get before they start to open up but often when its warm it will be a case of chekcing and cutting asparagus spears every day. A typical height might be 6-9 inches.

Harvesting Asparagus – here’s how

Using a sharp knife with a serrated edge (you can buy special asparagus knives) cut the asparagus cleanly 2- 10cm (1″-4″) below the ground. Take care not to cut the crown of the plant burried beneath the spear. Some would advise not cuttingbelow groudn but at groudn level to avoid admaging the crown.

From early May you will need to harvest aparagus every other day and then as it gets warmer every day. A spear can grow 15cm or 6″ in a day when the weather is right!

Get your freshly cut asparagus into the cool as soon as possible. It will stay fresher and keep better the sooner you get it into the refridgerator. Once in the fridge it will keep well but as expected the sooner you eat it the better.

Of course you can keep it in the fridge, give some to your friends or freeze it.

If you want some ideas on how to cook asparagus or ideas for asparagus recipes follow these links and enjoy!

Questions About Harvesting Asparagus

If you still have questions about how to harvest asparagus take a look at our page of frequently asked questions to see if you can find the answer there. If not please feel free to ask us or our expert and we will see if we can help.

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How many spears can I expect from an average asparagus plant ready for harvest?

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Top Tips for Buying and Storing Asparagus

These delectable spears of spring, with their vivid color and delicate flavor, are good hot or cold, dressed up or down. Here’s what to look for when you’re buying fresh asparagus so your recipes turn out just they way you want them to.

Image zoom Fresh Raw Asparagus | Photo by Meredith

How to Buy Asparagus

1. Choose Pristine Buds

The tips have the best flavor, so make sure they are firm and unwilted. Do a sniff test, too. Asparagus that’s past its prime gets smelly fast.

  • Stalks should be plump and firm, and tips should be tightly closed.
  • Color can be green, purple, or white, depending on the variety. Make sure the color is not faded.
  • A good grocer will chill asparagus or store it standing upright in cold, fresh water.

2. Try for Same-Size Stalks

Asparagus comes in several sizes, ranging in diameter from thinner than a drinking straw to fatter than your thumb. If you have to, undo several bundles so you can put together a pound or so of the stalks you want.

  • Thin, tender spears can be sautéed, steamed, or rubbed lightly with olive oil and grilled.
  • Fatter asparagus spears will need to be trimmed and either steamed or boiled in order to be tender.
  • While some people prefer the smaller spears for their delicacy and tenderness, others like thick asparagus for its more robust flavor and meaty texture.

3. Buy in Season for the Best Prices

Grocery stores often bring in asparagus to coincide with big holiday meals, but that means you’ll pay higher prices than you normally would. Fresh asparagus grown in Mexico shows up soon after New Year’s, but if you’re buying a locally grown crop, you won’t see it in the market until springtime. If you’re in Florida, that means February; further north, it’s closer to April. Buying in season also means much cheaper prices.

4. There is No Storage, There is Only Eating

Asparagus is a one-night-only type of vegetable—it doesn’t store well, and it usually doesn’t make for great leftovers. For the freshest flavor, try to buy and eat asparagus the same day.

Image zoom Storing Asparagus | Photo by Meredith

  • If you do plan to store it in your refrigerator for a few days after you get it home, treat it like a bouquet of flowers: trim a small amount from the bottoms of the stalks with a sharp knife and place them in a tall glass with a little water in the bottom. Cover the top loosely with a plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator. Change the water daily. This will help keep the stalks firm and crisp until you are ready to cook them.
  • You can also wrap the trimmed asparagus ends with a damp paper towel and store the stalks in a plastic bag.

Did You Know?
White asparagus is just green asparagus that hasn’t seen the light of day. To keep it from turning green, it’s grown in total darkness under mounds of dirt. Popular in Europe, white asparagus is tender and mild. Find out more about the underground cult of white asparagus.

Check out our complete collection of Asparagus Recipes.

Have you thought about buying asparagus, but passed it up because you didn’t know how to pick the “good” asparagus? Check out these three easy tips for choosing asparagus, and you’ll get the good ones every time!

How to Choose Asparagus

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Asparagus is weird, right? It looks like this weird tree, it’s standing up in a bin on the produce shelves, and it’s wrapped up in rubber bands. What the heck? How do you know if it’s good? Which ones do you choose? How do you know? And what comes next?

Don’t worry – we’re here to help!

Asparagus isn’t quite as easy to pick out as say, a bag of carrots or an apple. But if you look for these few things, you’ll get fresh asparagus every time!

  1. Look for asparagus stalks that are bright green and firm. If the stalks are starting to look floppy, pass on that bunch.
  2. Look at the tips of the asparagus spears. The leaves should be dry, firm, and held tightly against the stalk. If the leaves are starting to fall off or are wet, don’t get those.
  3. Look at the size of the stalks. Thinner asparagus stalks will be more tender. Thicker stalks will be chewier, might be a little stringy, and sometimes have a “woody” texture.

You want asparagus that looks like the ones in the photo below:

So now that you’ve picked out the perfect asparagus, what do you do with it? Check out this post for some simple tips for storing asparagus to keep it fresh at home. Then check out this post for some simple tips on washing asparagus and getting it ready to cook. Then go enjoy some fresh asparagus!

If you’re wondering when asparagus comes into season, check out this post and download a handy free printable!

Enjoy!

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3 Recipes to Try

  • Easy Roasted Asparagus
  • One-Dish Kielbasa, Asparagus, & Rice
  • Baked Eggs & Asparagus – from These Old Cookbooks

Harvest asparagus when spears are 6 to 9 inches (15-23 cm) long, about the thickness of your index finger, and before the tips begin to separate.

When to Harvest Asparagus

  • Asparagus is one of the first crops to come to harvest each spring. Early in the season when the weather is cool (less than 70°F/ 21°C), take spears that are 6 to 9 inches in length; as the season progresses and the weather warms take spears 5 to 7 long. A freeze can harm emerging spears so harvest ahead of freezing temperatures.
  • Harvest spears daily during the harvest period.
  • Harvest in the morning or evening when spears are crisp—this will help preserve freshness when stored.
  • Start harvesting asparagus the second year after planting crowns (the third year after seed)—but harvest lightly only about two weeks. Begin harvesting spears in earnest the third year—harvest for three to four weeks.
  • Many asparagus growers follow the 1-2-4-8-week harvest sequence: pick for 1 week in the second year, 2 weeks the third year, 4 weeks the fourth year, and up to 8 weeks the fifth and following years.
  • Waiting a couple of years after planting to begin the full spear harvest allows the root system to develop and store reserves for spear production the following seasons. The bushy, ferny growth of asparagus plants during the summer is an indication of how well the plants are doing—waist to shoulder-high fern growth in summer indicates plants are strong.
  • Stop the harvest in any year when spears are less than a finger thick. (Spears greater than 3/8 inch (.9 cm) in diameter are graded as “large” while spears from ¼ to 3/8 inch are graded as “small.”) Overharvesting can weaken asparagus plants resulting in smaller yields in the following years. A rule of thumb is to harvest until the diameter of the spear decreases to the size of a pencil. Then it is time to stop and let the plants grow, gaining strength for the next season.

How to Harvest Asparagus

  • Harvest asparagus by snapping off the green spears at soil level. Snapping will break spears cleanly at a tender point.
  • Asparagus spears can be cut with a knife, but it is important to clean the knife between cuts. Cutting with a knife can spread diseases from plant to plant.
  • Be careful not to snap or cut spears too deeply; removing a spear too close to the crown can injure the crown which can affect next year’s harvest.
  • Harvest spears when they are as thick as your index finger or slightly larger; spears that are allowed to grow too big can become tough and difficult to snap or cut. Discard spears that have grown too big.
  • Spears that have begun to open at the tips will be too tough to eat.

How to Extend the Asparagus Harvest

There are some proven ways to increase and extend the asparagus harvest:

  1. Plant crowns at different depths, for example, 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm), 6 to 8 inches and 8 to 10 inches. Spears from crowns planted a differing depths will emerge at different times; the shallow plantings will emerge first. This method will result in a longer harvest, but deeper set plants may be less productive than shallow set plants—shallow set plants will have a smaller spear diameter and deeper set plants will have a larger diameter.
  2. A second way to extend the harvest for a few weeks is to remove mulch from half of the asparagus bed early in the season allowing the exposed soil to warm more quickly. This will cause sprouts to emerge earlier. When spears begin to emerge, remove mulch from the second half of the bed to allow the rest of the spears to emerge a few weeks later. Don’t pull back the mulch too early as frost can make spears inedible.
  3. Similar to the second method is a third: When the harvest season is about half complete, mound up 5 to 6 inches (5-8 cm) of soil over unharvested rows of spears. The mounded soil will lower the temperature around the crowns and increase the size of spears still in the ground (the soil will also blanch or whiten the lower portion of the spears).
  4. A fourth method to extend the harvest is to cut only half of the spears that emerge in the spring. Let the other half grow on to become ferny bushes, then in midsummer cut the bushy foliage down to soil level forcing the production of new spears. If you cut down a few bushes at a time there will be an extended, successive growth of new spears. Commonly, summer-forced plants produce one large flush of spears and then decline. Do not force spring-harvested plants in midsummer (for a second harvest in one year), you will weaken the crowns.

After ferns turn brown and die in the fall, mow them down in preparation for the next growing season. Avoid tilling asparagus beds since tilling will damage crowns.

A mature asparagus plant can produce ½ to ¾ pound of spears each season. Plant approximately 20 plants per household member.

How to Store Asparagus

  • Asparagus has a short shelf life. Immersing spears in cold water immediately after harvest and then refrigerating them will help maintain quality.
  • Store asparagus spears at about 36°F (2°C) for up to 10 days.
  • Wrap spears in a moist cloth or paper towel and place them in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator.
  • Asparagus is sensitive to chilling and after several days at 32°F (0°C) it will lose its sheen and the tips will turn gray. Storing asparagus at temperatures above 50°F (10°C) for a prolonged time will quickly cause the spear to become tough.
  • To store spears for several months, blanch them in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, douse in cold water, wrap, and freeze.

More tips: How to Grow Asparagus.

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