Thursday, November 16, 2006

Asparagus Seeds

Today I bought the seeds to start my asparagus bed. I know most people buy crowns but I was determined to try a variety that is not so commonly grown anymore--something different. We have had asparagus beds at previous houses, but for some reason haven't started one since we lived here. Probably because of all the other things we have been doing but that is another post. Since I recently decided that next year I would like to try and produce all the vegetables and much of the fruit we eat, it was time to get serious about the asparagus. It takes 3 years to really be able to start harvesting asparagus spears from the crowns---though you can take a very light harvest in the second year depending on how well they have done. That basically means that I won't be harvesting this asparagus bed until the spring after there is a new President. Ack--so long.
I really like open pollinated and heirloom varieties of seeds so I set out on a search to see what types of heirloom asparagus I could find. Not many I found out. Most that are listed in old journals and plant lists seem to be long gone now, or else they are just very very hard to find. There were a number I would have liked to try but finally settled on the french heirloom variety --Precoce d'Argenteuil -- both because it interested me AND because it was one of the few I could find seeds of. I ordered the seeds from Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds (link in post) and now will wait impatiently for them to get here. I am excited to start them from seed since I have always purchased crowns previously. They say it is very easy to start asparagus from seed---no 6 month sprout rate or anything like that---which is nice to know since some things can be notoriously difficult to grow from seed. I am not the best seed sprouter so that is a factor I consider when deciding what new things to try. (I have never yet gotten any Agapanthus seeds to sprout for me)
Precoce d'Argenteuil is still widely grown in France as a variety suited for blanching before it is picked. The French supposedly favor a blanched (covered while it grows so that it stays white) asparagus. I personally have never had white asparagus which supposedly has a different/milder flavor than regular grown ie: green asparagus. Some like it and some don't--however it is obviously I will have to wait about....ummm... 3 years to find out.
The discussion of color leads me to the second variety I will purchase and grow---this time as two year old crowns--"Purple Passion". I love fruits/vegetables that are a different color than they are "suppose" to be. People now seem to be more aware of the fact that vegetables don't always come in standard colors-- but it is fun to surprise people periodically with a reddish purple broccoli or purple asparagus or even a red carrot. I really look forward to harvesting both varieties. At least this one will be ready sooner than the other :-) One last variety that I might try eventually---another heirloom variety--is Conover's Colossal Asparagus sold by Bountiful Gardens. Though I would imagine by the time my original two varieties get going-- I will have plenty of asparagus to eat fresh, can, give away and hopefully sell.
One other great thing about asparagus---it looks beautiful during the summer time. I love looking at it since it is so exotic---almost like some Caribbean plant came to vacation in my yard. --- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds -- Bountiful Gardens

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