The sight of asparagus spears poking up from the earth is a wonderful moment in the gardening year. The tips emerge looking like something prehistoric; reptilian heads covered in overlapping scales tinged purple, sniffing the air.
After finding the light, they tend to grow quickly, each day rising higher. Sometimes, its path impeded, a stalk will curve and curl like a fiddlehead fern, but most reach straight for the sky.
To harvest asparagus you should use a sharp knife and cut the stalk slightly below the surface. With mature plants over three years old you can keep cutting the spears as they appear for a month or so. By June, however, it’s time to stop, allowing the plants to succeed in completing their mission of developing tall airy fronds. By doing so, you allow asparagus to store the energy supply they require to come back with vigor next year.
We’ve had two miserly servings from our little asparagus bed so far. We are hungry for more and eagerly watch for new eruptions. I keep saying we will “do it properly” and buy new crowns and plant them in a large, perfectly prepared bed – soft and deep, dark with manure and free from weeds. But since I haven’t arranged this yet, we are left with our few, hand-me-down plants. Perhaps the spears taste so exquisite because we know there will be no glut to work through, just a brief, delectable spell of ultra-fresh, verdant deliciousness.
Asparagus and radish – the first harvest of the new season
Bean, squash and courgette plants may be shivering in the little plastic-covered greenhouse at home, but we are sustained for the moment by the magical emergence of asparagus spears, the fattening of radish bulbs, and the peppery fire of soft rocket leaves. I hunch over the ragged lines of beetroot, spring onion, chard, and fennel seedlings, willing them to shake off the cold and begin to grow!
4th May, 2013. Sun and clouds punctuate our al fresco lunch on the allotment with Jonathan.
Spring at last. Despite the drought of allotment-themed blog posts since we celebrated the rhubarb’s emergence, the garden itself has not been neglected. We’ve taken to the seasonal tasks with some diligence and even gusto: digging over beds, weeding, harvesting over-wintering crops, planting seeds both indoors and out. In fact, at this moment, the allotment is probably in better shape at this time of year than ever before. (Though there’s still the issue of several flower and fruit beds overcome by creeping couch grass that must be tackled soon. Not to mention the weed seeds biding their time, waiting for some warmth to begin to colonize those neat patches of bare earth.)
Some things that make my heart rejoice:
Asparagus! Our transplanted crowns have survived the winter and seem to like their new location. We’ll have more than four spears this season.
Peas grown in a gutter at home, then transplanted outside, climb up their twiggy supports and begin to flower. Behind them much-anticipated broad beans assert themselves. And behind these, rows of autumn-sown spinach continue to produce.