Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis L.)

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Origin 

The medicinal asparagus is thought to have originated from the Mediterranean coast. It was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians and Romans. Later, it was almost forgotten and became popular in Europe at the end of the 15th century.

Consumption 

Medicinal asparagus is cultivated as a vegetable, ornamental, medicinal and woody plant. In many Western European countries, there is a cult of growing and eating asparagus. They are eaten boiled, fried, stewed (as a side dish or main course), canned, and added to soups and salads.

Asparagus on the table
Asparagus on the table

Nutritional value 

Asparagus is a valuable early vegetable and dietary food. The most nutritious is the head of the shoot. It contains easily assimilable protein, carbohydrates, is particularly rich in fiber, vitamins C, B, B., B., B., PP, K, E. The shoots contain about 17 amino acids, mainly asparagine and tryptophan, a large amount of folic acid, and a variety of minerals. The glycoside coniferin, asparagine and sulfur-containing essential oil give asparagus a taste reminiscent of green peas or hazelnuts. Only the green shoots contain beta-carotene and are more aromatic. White shoots do not contain chlorophyll. The seeds contain up to 16 % fatty oil, are rich in sugars, malic and citric acid and smell of vanilla. Asparagus has anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-cancer properties, protects the liver, reduces inflammation and lowers lipid levels. It also protects against neurodegenerative diseases, depression, strengthens the immune system, improves sleep and memory. Decoctions of young shoots and roots are used as a urinary stimulant in bladder inflammation, rheumatism, heart and kidney diseases. Aspargin in the plant lowers arterial blood pressure, dilates peripheral blood vessels and strengthens the heart. Asparagus can affect the formation of stones. The sprouts are calorie-free: 100 g of fresh sprouts contain 20-22 kcal.

Varieties 

“Aspalim’. A very early variety. The shoots are green. Backlim’. The needles are white and green. ‘Gijnlim’. Late variety. White and green needles. Guelph millennium’. Late variety. Shoots green. ‘Erasmus’. Early variety. The shoots are purple. Prius’. Early variety. The needles are white and green. Xenolim’. A medium-early variety. Shoots green. “Tallems’. A medium-late variety.

Location 

Suitable for a sheltered, sunny position. Groundwater must be at least 1,5 m away.

Asparagus and tomatoes
Asparagus and tomatoes

Soil and substrates 

Asparagus grows well in humusy, loose, deeply cultivated, moisture-permeable, non-acidic (pH 6,5-7) loamy soils.

Nutrient requirements

The soil must be rich in nutrients.

Planting 

Planting is best between late April and early May. The seedlings are planted in trenches approximately 20 cm deep in one direction at intervals of 2030 cm. Long roots can be shortened, but it is important that they do not protrude upwards. The roots are spread on the compost heap and covered with a layer of soil about 10 cm thick. The seedlings emerge after 3 weeks, then a layer of soil about 10 cm thick is added again, forming a furrow in this way 3 times. In autumn, the rusty stems are cut back. The crop is harvested the following spring.

Asparagus is a perennial, long-lived plant that can grow for 15-20 years or more in one place.

Asparagus in the bowl
Asparagus in the bowl

Plant care 

After planting, the seedlings are watered, the soil is carefully loosened and weeds are weeded. Water continuously during drought. At the end of June, after harvesting, watering with a fermented nettle compost mortar or a slow-release fertilizer specially balanced for asparagus. In autumn, the stems are cut close to the ground. Before frost, spread reduced acidity peat or compost.

Pests and diseases 

The plants are affected by rots, asparagus rust, gravel beetle larvae, asparagus flies and beetles.

Yield 

White seedlings grow under a special mound of earth in spring, green seedlings grow above ground. The more shoots are cut, the more they produce. Harvesting takes place from late April/early May to mid-June. Cuttings are 17-20 cm long with an unbranched top. It should be cut carefully, without damaging the others, diagonally, from a deeper position (2-3 cm below ground level). The soil must cover the cut area to prevent the spread of disease. After cleaning and washing the shoots, the ends are cut straight. It is important to cool them down quickly, otherwise, they will wilt. The shoots will keep for about a week in the fridge, in bags or a damp cloth. The fresh shoot is fragile, crunchy, break quickly, and tends to droop when old or wilted.

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