In the Garden: planting octopi

Last month my order from Stark’s Nursery arrived, and the box was almost as big as me!  It contained three bare root fruit trees, an apple, peach, and plum, and twenty asparagus plants.

I was delighted!

We planted the three trees that very Sunday, and I took care of the asparagus on Monday.   I must confess that planting asparagus is like trying to plant an octopus!  Or in this case twenty octopi!  It was very hard work, and Violet helped, but I was tired!

PROCEDURE:

First you dig the hole, then mound up the dirt in the center and place your octopus over the mound like this.

So what’s so hard about that you ask?

Let me back up, then.  Well, for starters I had to entirely amend that clay soil to make it permeable.  Asparagus puts down a very deep root system, some say six feet, others say up to ten feet, and they like good drainage.  Luckily, our clay seems to drain well, but I wanted to give it at least a two foot head start with the amendments.  I had the advantage with the raised bed, but that still meant going down into the base soil for that extra foot.

The next step was getting the tentacles and crown to lay flat on the little hills while I back-filled each hole.  The crowns need to be two to three inches under the soil with no air pockets underneath.   I spread them out, placing the long, rubbery roots down into the soil.  I pressed the crown down and  PoP!  They spring right back up!  I finally learned to just weight them down by placing several large handfuls of soil on the center of the plant.

Now I had to dig, mound, spread roots, hold down crowns and back-fill nineteen more times.

Only three more to go!

The plants are in and watered.  Now I wait.  You see, asparagus takes about three years to mature to a size where you can harvest from the plants.  This is an investment of preparation, care, and time.  However, if you enjoy asparagus, and we do, it is definitely worth the effort, because an asparagus bed will last for years!

~*~

My favorite way to eat asparagus is grilled.  You can do this outside on the barbecue, or in your oven using the broiler.

GRILLING ASPARAGUS:

You will need:

  1. One bunch of asparagus
  2. Olive oil
  3. Kosher salt

Preparation:

  1. Rinse asparagus and drain well
  2. Lightly coat with olive oil and place on foil lined grill if using the broiler, or directly onto a grilling tray if using the barbecue
  3. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt

This method cooks relatively fast so stay close by.  When the one side has turned a darker green and looks a bit wrinkled (not too much!) turn the asparagus and finish the other side.  Serve immediately.

~*~

NOTE:  Some people, Like the Barefoot Contessa like theirs served with a delightful Parmesan sauce and lemon!  Please click on her name above to be taken to her inspired recipe for this delicious vegetable!

UPDATE:

I just found this lovely article that tells all on Asparagus, its history, uses, nutrition and more.  For instance, did you know this power packed vegetable is from the lily family?  You might like to take a look here at Nutrition and You.

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39 thoughts on “In the Garden: planting octopi

  1. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Okay, so call me weird, but I like steaming mine; either done in the nuker, on the barby sealed in a foil packet with a couple of ice cubes or the old-fashioned way in a double-boiler on top of the stove and then served with butter. It’s also great sautéd with your morning omelette… I LOVE it when the asparagus (finally: ) comes up; ’cause that’s when you know it’s TRULY spring!!
    Congratulations on your new arrivals! 🙂

    ~~~~~~
    “Oops! (Accidentally deleted my comments follow up)”
    Actually, you didn’t, but I know what you mean!!! It is infuriating, isn’t it?
    ~Lynda

    • pixilated2 says:

      Deb, I steam my asparagus sometimes as well, and also add it cut as an ingredient in quiche! Asparagus is so delicious and can be prepared in so many ways. When steamed and topped with butter, I sometimes add a sprinkle of slivered, toasted almonds… when I happen to have them on hand! Delicious!

    • pixilated2 says:

      Anke, I had never really cared one way or the other about asparagus growing up, because the only kind I ever got was CANNED. 😛
      After Bob and I got married we started eating it because he liked it! But not too often because it is so expensive. I look forward to our patch being where yours is today! 🙂

  2. victoriaaphotography says:

    Gosh, what a chore (to plant it) – I never realised it took so much work.

    I love asparagus too – steamed with a hot meal and blanched & chilled with a green salad and home-made french dressing (olive oil, lemon juice & white wine vinegar).

    I’ve only tasted them once, but also like the big fat yellowish-white variety.

    • pixilated2 says:

      Victoria, oddly enough the big yellowish-white variety gets that way from a process called blanching! They wrap the plant in paper bury the stalk in sand to block the sunlight, reducing the production of chlorophyll in the stalks. I haven’t tasted them that way yet because the are REALLY expensive here. Maybe I will try blanching a few in my own patch some day. 🙂

      EDIT !!! I looked this up and find that there is actually a special type of asparagus that was developed over a very long period. Its genetics allow for the blanching process, which is actually done by burying the stalks in fine sand as they grow! I knew they used paper in blanching celery and endive and therefore assumed the same process was used in asparagus! 😀

      “White varieties such as Backlim, Boonlim, Ravel, and Braunschweig have been bred for thick shoots, closed heads and a mild, non-bitter taste. White asparagus is harvested in Germany between April and June 24th of each year. The farmer hills up sand and compost over the root stocks to blanch the shoots as they grow. Asparagus shoots can grow 2-3 inches per day in warm weather.” From: The Culture of Asparagus in Germany

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Personally speaking, always wondered why anyone would like the flavour; it’s kind of like comparing bleached white flour to whole grain (Y’know, like “Funder” bread; ) definitely different, but what about all that chlorophyll-packed nutrition?

          • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

            Asparagus season was something we always looked forward to but, when I became pregnant, it wasn’t just a craving, but an overwhelming force to find it ASAP!! Later on, I found out that asparagus is LOADED with folic acid – which prevents spina bifida and neural tube defects in the developing fetus… Our bodies know what they need (the biggest problem is figuring out what they’re really asking for; )

  3. Bill says:

    Getting an asparagus going is hard work and takes a long time, but it will be worth it when you start getting fresh asparagus. It is far superior to anything you can find in a store.
    We love it grilled the way you describe. If you have extra, a good way to preserve it is to make asparagus soup and freeze it.
    Good luck with your plants!

    • pixilated2 says:

      Why don’t you plant your own little patch? You love to garden, and the plants are kind of pretty in their own right. Maybe along the back of one of your flower patches? 🙂

    • pixilated2 says:

      Yes! I love fresh fruit and vegetables, but they are so expensive anymore. I figured I’d spend big on the front end of this project and not have to buy expensive and tasteless from the grocery later! Looking forward to later!

  4. Animalcouriers says:

    That is hard work, digging for the asparagus. Back broken now?! Something to look forward to… We would love to grow it but the weeds would just take over or the chickens would get there first 😉 However, we are lucky to walk past 20 acres of the stuff every day each spring and buying it couldn’t be easier. Your recipe looks lovely. We love it served cold with a tarragon-based salad dressing – YUM 😀

    • pixilated2 says:

      Annie, the back is fine thanks to Violet! I know what you mean about the chickens… mine got in once and decimated the whole garden. They even ate the green tomatoes!

      20 ACRES of asparagus! OH, HEAVENLY!

      Do you make your own dressing? I grow my own tarragon too, and would love to try it. 🙂

      • Animalcouriers says:

        Yes, it’s basically a thick vinaigrette: Dijon mustard, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and the olive oil mixed in gradually so the sauce thickens. The finely chopped tarragon is mixed in at the end. Delish. Isn’t tarragon wonderful, grows like a weed and the chickens hate it 😀

  5. Island Traveler says:

    They look like octopus’ tentacles. Love asparagus. My wife usually bake them with some seasonings. It goes well with Baked Salmon. Yummy!Wishing you and your family all the blessings and joys of the holidays.

  6. shoreacres says:

    We had a huge asparagus patch while I was growing up, but I don’t remember ever eating the stuff. What I remember is playing with the feathery fronds once they’d gone to seed. I never liked asparagus until maybe ten years ago, when I started finding fresh here and there, and discovered the taste was radically different than that smooshy stuff in the cans.

    I’m not sure it grows down here – maybe too hot? I see it at the farmers’ market in spring, but they sometimes bring in products from north Texas, Louisiana, etc. Anyway – what an interesting story about how the plants start. I didn’t have a clue. I guess I assume you just spread out some asparagus seed!

    • Lynda says:

      Urgh… that canned stuff. My mom used to try and pass that off on us, and not even the good stuff, she got the cut up bits in a can. 😛

      We never grew asparagus when I was a kid (obviously) but some of my friends “grannies” had it growing in their vegetable patches, that and Rhubarb. (Now there’s a vegetable I can do without!)

      Anyway, with the price of the good asparagus going up in the range of $6.00 a bunch here, it behooves us to wait it out and grow our own!

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        You don’t like rhubarb? If you like apple crisp/crumble, try subbing in rhubarb instead. With lots of cinnamony topping… Seriously delicious.

        • Lynda says:

          Seriously, I don’t like it. I have tried on several occasions and I just couldn’t get past the taste. Everyone always says, “Oooh, try so and so’s pie” (or whatever) and take a bite to be polite… It never gets better. 😛

          I think rhubarb fits nicely into the category of,

          “It’s an acquired taste.” 😉

  7. littlesundog says:

    I planted asparagus crowns two years ago after extensively researching what type grew best in the south. I found the hardier “northern” varieties didn’t fare well in the south. The sandy soil and extreme summer temps were not favorable. So I decided on the UC-157, which was extremely difficult to find. Finally, at a nursery in Dallas, I ran across crowns that were molded and looking terrible. I got them for 10 cents a crown since they looked so bad! They all GREW and my plants are flourishing! What a bargain! And they are doing very well in our heat and surviving the drought. I’ve been very happy with this variety.

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