White asparagus in a basket
(Image credit: Anka100 / Getty Images)

Asparagus is a crop that takes some patience. If you're short on patience, Precoce d'Argenteuil is a good choice. You'll still have to wait, but not quite as long. And as an added bonus, it tastes amazing. Asparagus is a very old plant that originated in Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. While it has grown wild for ages, it first started being cultivated seriously in Europe in the 19th century.

Precoce D'Argenteuil History

Precoce d'Argenteuil means "early variety" of Argenteuil. So what does Argenteuil mean? It doesn't mean anything. It's a place, about 9 miles north of Paris, which used to be an asparagus growing hotspot. Precoce d'Argenteuil's earliest recorded mention is from 1885, when it was listed as having been developed from the Giant Dutch Purple variety of asparagus. Precoce d'Argenteuil asparagus took off in France, which was already arguably asparagus crazy. It became the go-to variety used to create the popular French "white asparagus." Odds are you've seen white asparagus in the store - it's not a different breed. It's regular old asparagus that's been blanched by careful protection from the sun.

Growing Heirloom Asparagus Plants

Precoce d'Argenteuil is early in a couple senses of the word. One problem with asparagus that keeps a lot of gardeners from growing it is the long time it takes to establish. With most varieties, you won't actually get to harvest until three years after you've planted. Precoce d'Argenteuil is usually ready to go after two. The other sense in which it's early - and this is what's really responsible for the name - is the time it appears in the spring. There exist mid and late season varieties of Argenteuil - Precoce emerges from the ground the earliest. Once your asparagus patch is established, it should reliably produce new edible spears every year for a few decades.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.