Asparagus is a pretty famous vegetable as vegetables go, notorious for giving you green smelly pee. But now the humble spears have reached popularity again as people are just learning how these little green stalks actually grow.
For those not in the know, the genus Asparagus contains around 300 species but the best known is the garden asparagus which is commonly consumed across the world. Asparagus is a great source of all different kinds of vitamins, including K, which is used for blood clotting, as well as vitamin C and folate.
Asparagus is a herbaceous perennial vegetable that can be a very long-term crop, lasting up to 20 years. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, asparagus can be grown from dormant plants called crowns or from seeds.
While it’s best to not harvest your asparagus for the first couple of years to allow the plant to get established, after that initial period you should be able to eat homegrown asparagus each spring for many years. These little green spears grow straight upright from the soil and are simply cut at the bottom to be harvested.
Asparagus plants can be male or female but male plants are said to produce more spears with a better quality. After harvest, the plants can grow fern-like leaves before dying back over winter, becoming ready to harvest again in the spring. Female plants can even produce red berries in the fall. In 2018, the leading producers of asparagus were China, Peru, and Mexico.
Some species are poisonous when eaten but are used for decoration and even floristry because of their appealing green foliage.
White asparagus is even grown in some parts of the world where the spears never see the sunshine and thus never develop the classic green color. Instead, they are either grown totally in the shade or remain underground. This prevents chlorophyll, and therefore green color, from developing inside the cells.