By Becca Badgett
(Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden)
Harvesting asparagus is worth the wait, and wait you must if you have started a new asparagus bed from seed or crowns. The delectable spears are not of edible quality until the fourth year after planting seeds. Asparagus harvesting then becomes more worthwhile each year.
Planting asparagus from seed allows one to grow any variety of the vegetable, but growing from one year old crowns allows for harvesting asparagus more quickly, three years after planting crowns. Learning how to pick asparagus ensures the lifespan of your asparagus bed.
Male or Female Asparagus
Asparagus plants are either males or female. The female plant will develop many spears, but when harvesting asparagus one will have the most productive harvest from male plants.
Learning how to harvest asparagus includes learning the difference between the male and female plants, which is easily discovered once the delicious vegetable appears and grows. Female plants devote much of their energy to seed production and can be identified when red berry-like seeds appear later in the season.
Male plants, who devote no energy to seed production, offer thicker and longer spears which are what one desires when harvesting asparagus. Newer varieties of asparagus are available which offer only male plants that do not require pollination.
How to Harvest Asparagus
Asparagus is one of the earliest vegetables from the garden in spring. Knowing when to pick asparagus will result in the most flavorful experience from your crop.
In the third year of growth, after planting one year old crowns, spears of plants will be ready for asparagus harvesting. During this initial harvest year (year 3), plants should only be harvested the first month of optimum production. Removing the spears for more than a month during this important year of growth will weaken and possibly kill the plant.
Asparagus harvesting should begin when the stems are five to eight inches long and as big around as your finger. Of course, the width will vary from male to female plants. Length may dictate when to pick asparagus, but you will want to get it early enough in the season that it is tender.
Cut or break the spears from the point closest to their attachment to the fibrous roots. Excessive disturbance of the area can result in damage to spears which have not yet broken ground.
Once you know how to pick asparagus, you will delight in spring asparagus harvesting in future years. The properly prepared and harvested asparagus bed will increase in yearly production for many years, generally for as long as 15 years and possibly up to 30 years, with the vegetable becoming more abundant.