Archive for the ‘asparagus’ category

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May 17, 2012

Although I’ve been at this gardening thing for seven years now, I still haven’t acquired the ability to start seeds indoors in the spring. Or perhaps it’s more a question of will than ability — who wants to mess with potting mixes, lights and timers, temperature gauges, hardening off, and the like? Some of my friends do, which is all the more reason not to bother. Yesterday, after a lovely lakeside lunch with just such a friend, he presented me with nine healthy young crucifers, plus a bag of just-picked asparagus.

I had planned to spend the afternoon writing, but those adolescent plants, each confined to a single shot of soil, clearly needed to go into the ground. It took more effort than I expected to clear a space east of the rhubarb, north of the strawberries, south of the peas. By the time I was done I was too dirty and tired to write, so I figured I might as well give the rest of the daylight to the garden. Taking a break from intense physical effort, I turned to the fiddly task of weeding the crops I had planted in the early spring — strawberries, radishes, snow peas, kale, parsnips. Then it was time for asparagus. 

A perennial, asparagus requires a large initial investment of time and effort but then rewards you with years of production. I’ve been around the block with asparagus once before, but just before the long-awaited first harvest, the plot met a tragic early demise, due to a miscommunication with the friendly neighbor who plows up my garden every year. It took me a few seasons to get over the loss, but this year I was ready to start again. The good news: now that I’ve been working this plot for a few years, it was much easier to dig the trench for the crowns. Not easy, mind you, but easier.

I love how, on television cooking shows, a dish goes into the oven just before the commercial break, and then just a few minutes later the host is enjoying a fully cooked and beautifully plated version. I felt the same kind of magical cheat when I walked inside from planning my asparagus — which will not be ready to harvest until three years from now — and enjoyed garden-fresh asparagus for dinner. Grassy-sweet and tender, these fat spears required no cooking, just a little boost of protein. I decided to make a reverse pesto: instead of fistfuls of herb with a little bit of nuts, into the blender went a pile of almonds with a small amount of wild arugula, chives, green garlic and tarragon. To get things moving I added some olive oil and lemon.

It was delicious, but about halfway though the afternoon caught up with me… I was, literally, too tired to keep chewing. I finished the almond stuff with a spoon, then I tucked the asparagus into the fridge and myself into bed.

Investment

May 9, 2009

Sacrifice now, celebrate later: this is what people mean when they say, “It’s a great investment.”

Planting asparagus is a very particular kind of investment. When I got my apartment in New York, I invested pretty much all my savings. And I invested weeks putting together a 120-page “board packet” that included all kinds of information that one would ordinarily consider private. But within a couple of months, I was living in my new home.

Planting asparagus is not like that. It is more like the beginning piano student practicing scales in the hopes that someday she will toss off  the Hammerklavier sonata, or the beginning yogi suffering through navasana in the hopes that someday he will fly. Gratification is a long way off, and the preparation—the “investment”—is no fun at all. In fact, it can be downright painful.

Planting asparagus requires digging a very large trench. Ordinarily, one might dig a large trench with a large shovel. But asparagus are perennial, so it is important to completely rid the soil of weeds. Although a large shovel would efficiently remove large loads of dirt, it would chop up taproots in the process, resulting in more weeds rather than less. So one achieves the trench by means of hands and a fork.000_0612

It took me the better part of the day to dig my trench. It is about 15 feet long, two feet wide, one foot deep. I got some old black horseshit from a neighbor, made 10 little piles, and then draped an asparagus crown over each hill. 000_0615Then I shoveled all the dirt back into the trench (more work than you’d think, even using a large shovel) and mulched.

This was, by far, the most labor-intensive row of vegetables I’ve ever put in. Invested in. And assuming as I stay on top of things—keep em weeded, watered, mulched—I will enjoy the fruits of my labors in three to five years.

Maybe I’ll start practicing scales again while I wait for my asparagus.