Growing asparagus seeds in the garden can be an exasperating task as they can’t be harvested for the first two to three years, yet once the bed is established, they will continue growing practically forever. Anyone who has a secret wild patch where they can go harvest asparagus in the spring knows the joy of eating their tender shoots raw. It can be difficult to return home with any to cook, because they’re like eating candy.
It’s supposed that asparagus seeds originated in areas of the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia. Tender shoots have been cultivated since at least 3000 B.C., as an ancient frieze in Egypt which depicts them as part of an offering has been discovered. They were also included in the oldest discovered cookbook. Ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed the flavor and developed methods for saving them including freezing and drying. One of the most famous stories of asparagus history includes the “Asparagus Fleet” which Emperor Augustus used to carry his treat.
As asparagus seeds traveled throughout Northern Europe and into the New World, it gained in notoriety as an aphrodisiac and medicinal plant. Sonnets were written singing its praises and the delicate tips were often included on royal menus. The first asparagus picked from a garden is small and is referred to as “sprue”.
As with most vegetables asparagus grown from seed provides nutrients that should be included in healthy diets. Potassium, folate and antioxidants are in all types of asparagus. Green asparagus also includes Vitamin C and promotes the growth of collagen in the body. It is primarily composed of water, and it requires ample moisture while growing to avoid becoming bitter with woody stalks.
Growing asparagus seeds will require planning ahead for an abundant and long-term harvest in the future. This vegetable is supposed to grow well nearly anywhere, even near beaches where the soil may contain saline. In fact some people add salt to kill weeds in their garden. This should be tested in a small area before applying to the entire bed, to ensure it won’t kill the tender young shoots.
The Mary Washington Asparagus seeds are a rust-resistant variety that will be a bountiful producer. Soak the seeds before starting early in the spring for transplanting or directly in the soil. They have a slow germination rate, and as with all aspects of asparagus growing, require patience. This green variety will produce succulent shoots that can be harvested sooner than other varieties. The growth will continue for approximately thirty years, although with reseeding it may seem indefinite.
Tips for growing asparagus heirloom seeds can be found in “Grow the Best Asparagus” by Michael Higgins. This 32 page book will help you become a pro in no time, particularly for people who are unfamiliar with seed cultivation.