AMES, Iowa – With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of asparagus. In this week’s edition of the “Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep” series, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists explain the many benefits of growing asparagus.
Asparagus is a perennial vegetable. Although it takes two to three years to establish an asparagus patch, once established you will have years of asparagus to enjoy. To learn more about planting, maintaining and harvesting an asparagus patch, review the ISU Extension and Outreach publication “Asparagus in the Home Garden.”
The stem diameter of asparagus indicates the age of the plant and possibly, the cultivar. Thicker stems come from older, well-maintained, male cultivars. Thickness and thinness are not an indication of tenderness or toughness. Asparagus spears are best if picked when the spear is 6 to 8 inches tall. Watch your asparagus patch closely when warm weather arrives, as a spear can grow 10 inches in one day.
Some may consider asparagus a weed, while others consider it a vegetable delicacy. It has a fine texture and distinct, slightly bitter flavor. Asparagus may be eaten raw or cooked. It can be grilled, broiled, boiled, microwaved or steamed. Be aware it does not take long to cook. Overcooking makes the spears mushy and the unique flavor is lost.
Asparagus is low-calorie but is full of nutrients. It is a good source of a number of vitamins and minerals including the B vitamins, folate, Vitamins C, E and K, as well as iron and zinc.
Some health benefits of asparagus
- Reduces inflammation. It is packed with antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. This lowers your risk of certain cancers and chronic diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
- Supports gut health. It is a good source of fiber – just a one-half cup of asparagus provides 2 grams of fiber. This small amount of soluble fiber supports your “good gut bugs.”
- Lowers blood pressure. It is very low in sodium and a good source of potassium, both of which help lower your blood pressure; studies suggest there may be other active compounds in asparagus that also help control blood pressure.
Some future Sow Grow Eat and Keep topics
- Container gardening.
- Cool weather crops (lettuce, spinach, peas).
- Freezer jams (strawberry).
- Scouting for garden pests.
- Tilling and watering basics.
- Produce food safety.
For more information, view this week’s asparagus ‘quickinar’ video at https://vimeo.com/417337194.
Send your food or garden questions to email@example.com.
Original photo: Asparagus. Photo by Cynthia Haynes.