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Asparagus

aspaasp2

asparagus cookedasparagus plant

Here are some online resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asparagus

http://www.asparagus.org/ (who knew that there is an asparagus advisory board)

Literature –

from The Old Farmer’s Almanac –  http://www.almanac.com/plant/asparagus

USDA Hardiness Zones – 4-9

Part Sun, Sandy Soil

ph – Slightly Acidic to Neutral

Plant crowns (1 or more year old plants) as soon as the soil can be worked. Work in several inches of compost to the area to be planted. The Old Farmer’s Almanac (TOFA) recommends digging a 6 inch wide by 6 to 12 inch deep trench, with a mound running down the trench, onto which the crowns are placed and covered with 2 inches of soil. They recommend covering the trench with more soil as the stems grow, leaving 3 to 4 inches exposed. When the trench is filled, add 4 to 8 inches of mulch and keep the bed watered. However, they advise against giving the plants “wet feet”, and suggest a raised bed and/or good drainage help prevent this. Do not harvest the spears the first year. Cut down dead foliage in late fall (presumably to help prevent introduction of asparagus beetles and caterpillars onto next years crop), and compost. Keep the bed thickly mulched the following year, and add compost in spring and early fall, again removing dead foliage.

It can take up to 3 years for the plants to become productive. TOFA recommends only harvesting spears thicker than a pencil. After the harvest begins to wain, which can be in as little as a couple of weeks, leave the remaining spears to grow to full sized ferns, as this feeds the roots for the following years. Cut spears at about 6 inches in length, at an angle.

Our story –

We have had our asparagus roots/plants for the last three years now. In theory, we should be able to harvest some plants for eating next growing season.  I say in theory because this year we moved them.  I think it would be best to allow them to go to fern for at least one more year before harvesting.  Paul put them in a small hugel bed, hoping that they will require less watering. Mulching is a really good recommendation, as we did not, and the bed ended up filled with weeds (especially our least favorite, buttercups..).

Recipes – 

Cream of asparagus soup

  • 1 Bunch of asparagus
  • 1 Chicken Broth
  • 1 Leek
  • Sour Cream (a dollop per serving, for creaminess and presentation)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Bacon is optional (to majority of my cream based soups) and or Parmesan cheese as garnish

Steam the asparagus and the leek until very tender, blend with the chicken broth and add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with crispy bacon bits (usually, on a rare occasion we have left over bacon, I incorporate it into meals) or Parmesan cheese and voila!

Pancetta wrapped asparagus

  • Pancetta
  • Asparagus
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wrap asparagus with pancetta (if they are too skinny, use two or three stalks per slice of pancetta). Drizzle with olive oil (lightly) and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees–enjoy! This is a Thanksgiving favorite for us!

Baked Asparagus with almonds and asiago cheese

  •  Asparagus
  • Almond slivers or slices
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Grated Asiago

In a single layer, place asparagus on a baking sheet/dish, sprinkle with salt, pepper and almonds.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Add cheese and bake additional 5-10 minutes (depending on the desired texture of the asparagus–I like mine to be on a crispier side vs. mushy).

Asparagus adds a nice touch to pizza, stir fries, and is excellent pickled.  Please share your favorite recipes with us!

Chard:lettuce

Known as the beet that forgot how to produce a bulb, we grow and eat this vegetable on a regular basis.  When young, it’s excellent raw and as it ages, and gets tougher, we sautee it with either egg or leftover sausage. Planting in early spring (ours just poked through the dirt) will yield plentiful harvest throughout summer and fall. Sow directly into the ground and thin out when the plants are about one to two inches tall.  I use the thinned out chard and other greens in a fresh spring salad–nothing goes to waste here!  Harvest by snipping of the outer leaves (don’t pull or you might damage the root) and the leaves will regrow for continuous harvest.  We usually have about six plants and towards the end we give a lot away because we are so sick of eating it.  Come December, we start to miss it.

Collards:

This is our first year growing collards.  It should be very interesting as the plant can withstand lots of heat but can also be frost tolerant. I don’t know much about this plant but we sure love eating them. We use them as wraps or saute them up with some bacon–mmm, bacon!

The national gardners assocition has a good site/information for growing collards, since I know very little, here is what they say about planting this delicous gem: http://www.garden.org/plantguide/?q=show&id=3344

For a spring crop, sow collard seeds directly in the garden 3 weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow seeds ½ inch deep and 3 inches apart. When seedlings are a few inches high, thin to 6 inches apart; as plants grow, thin to 12 to 18 inch spacing so they have plenty of room to develop. To get a jump on the season, you can start collards early indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost date, moving hardened-off seedlings to the garden about 2 weeks before the last frost.

Tolerant of cool conditions, collards make a good fall crop in many parts of the country. Sow seeds in late summer or early fall, about 10 weeks before the first expected fall frost date. In warmer parts of the country, late summer and fall sown collards can be harvested through the winter and into the spring.

Kale:

kale kale

Another favorite of mine.  Kale grows best in cool weather and if the plant is fully established, kale will withstand freezing conditions.  It can be planted as soon as the danger of frost has passed and again in late July or early August for fall and winter harvest.  If you have a cold frame, a greenhouse or anything in between, chances are, kale will survive the winter (here in the PNW) and produce fresh leaves as early as late February. Directly sow the seeds into the soil about half an inch deep and wait anywhere from 5 to 15 days for them to germinate. Thin plants out when they are big enough for a salad.  Since kale is a member of the cabbage family, avoid planting in the same spot as any of the Brassica family plants, as this can encourage whiteflies and other pests. Harvest young leaves when they are a few inches tall and enjoy fresh or sautee it as the plant gets tougher with age.

Lettuces

Probably the easiest to grow in the PNW!  Lettuces are cold hardy for the most part. They do well in the shade.  They enjoy the sun but not too hot, as they bolt easy.  Lettuces can be grown starting early spring and into the fall.  Clipping the outer leaves and succession planting will allow for a continuous harvest.  Lettuces must be well irrigated for the best flavor.  They get bitter if they are stressed and old.  Sow directly into the ground and thin just like you would any other of the greens described above.

Lettuce needs no introduction in the culinary world.  We eat it as a salad daily, I like to snack on it or use it for wraps.

Peas!
Here are some good resources I found online:
http://www.almanac.com/plant/peas
http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/growing-peas-zmaz09fmzraw.aspx
What I know:
  • Peas like the soil to be a little bit on the colder side so planting before the last frost is OK and recommended.
  • Peas fix nitrogen.
  • Plant 1 inch deep about 1.5-2 inches apart.
  • Snow or a little bit of frost will not bother the seeds or plants
  • Peas will need a trellis of some sort to climb (they get tangled very fast and easy, place the trellis before the plants are taller than 2 inches.)
  • Harvest anytime after pods form. You can pick shell peas as soon as pods are full.
  • Peas freeze well, blanch the peas, lay flat on cooking sheet, freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag.  They do get a little soft, so best if utilized for cooking.  http://farmersalmanac.com/blog/2006/06/05/freezing-snow-peas-and-sugar-snap-peas/
  • Canning peas: we have not canned peas (not our favorite) but here is a good link. http://www.pickyourown.org/peas_canning.htm
These are pictures from a few years ago…
peas peas6
We had so many peas that we froze a bunch…
peas2 peas4
Recipes:
We eat a lot of peas during the growing season as it is one of our children’s favorite veggies.  We generally eat it raw! Paul and I eat them with humus. If we do cook with peas it is usually to make stir fry or split pea soup
Stir fry:
In my wok, I sauté (barely) vegetables of choice with a little bit of coconut oil and soy sauce.  Super easy and delicious. Paul usually adds chili flakes to his.
Split pea soup:
Cook peas in your choice of broth, add cubed raw potatoes (while still cooking) and some ham or cooked bacon if that appeals to you.  I personally like it with ham! 
Humus:
Can of garbanzo beans, 1/4 cup of tahini, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, blend until smooth and devour.  I like to add either pine nuts or hazelnuts to my humus, I like the nutty flavors.

Spinach:

spinach

We eat a lot of spinach.  Raw or cooked, I love it.  I appreciate that it can be planted a month before the last spring frost and a month before the last fall frost.  If planted every few weeks, it is possible to have a continuous supply of spinach.  Thinning of the plants is necessary. We usually wait until we can collect enough for a micro salad.  Harvest the outer leaves in the morning and store in the fridge as it tend to wilt at a fast rate.

I make a delicious “green” borscht and one of the ingredients is  spinach, along with a bunch of other greens and herbs. I also love spinach in an omelet.  The only way I will NOT eat spinach is if it is boiled!

Here are planting direction from the Old Farmers Almanac

http://www.almanac.com/plant/spinach

  • Prepare the soil with aged manure about a week before planting, or, you may wish to prepare your spot in the fall so that you can sow the seeds outdoors in early spring as soon as the ground thaws.
  • If you live in a place with mild winters, you can also plant in the fall.
  • Although seedlings can be propagated indoors, it is not recommended as seedlings are difficult to transplant.
  • Spring plantings can be made as soon as the soil can be properly worked. It’s important to seed as soon as you can to give spinach the required 6 weeks of cool weather from seeding to harvest.
  • Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil.
  • Sow seeds 1/2 inch to 1 inch deep, covering lightly with soil. Sow about 12 seeds per foot of row, or sprinkle over a wide row or bed.
  • Soil should not be warmer than 70º F in order for germination.
  • Successive plantings should be made every couple weeks during early spring. Common spinach cannot grow in midsummer.
  • For summer types, try New Zealand Spinach and Malabar Spinach.
  • Plant in mid-August for a fall crop, ensuring that soil temps are cool enough.
  • Gardeners in northern climates can harvest early-spring spinach if it’s planted just before the cold weather arrives in fall. Protect the young plants with a cold frame or thick mulch through the winter, then remove the protection when soil temperature in your area reaches 40º.
  • Water the new plants well in the spring.
  • Fertilize only if necessary due to slow growth, or use as a supplement if your soil’s pH is inadequate. Use when plant reaches 1/3 growth.
  • When seedlings sprout to about two inches, thin them to 3-4 inches apart.
  • Beyond thinning, no cultivation is necessary. Roots are shallow and easily damaged.
  • Keep soil moist with mulching.
  • Water regularly.
  • Spinach can tolerate the cold; it can survive a frost and temps down to 15ºF.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. That soup recipe sounds great. I love asparagus, used to harvest it wild along the ditch banks when we lived in southern Idaho, but I’ve never made soup with it. I’ll try some next spring.

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