Asparagus Season

Growing asparagus means that you have literally put down roots. Asparagus is a perennial. During the winter the asparagus patch looks barren. Then, in the spring, stalks emerge. The season is brief and for the rest of the summer the bed is filled with frilly greens (loved by butterfly caterpillars.) An asparagus bed takes years to mature. Even varieties like Jersey Knight, which can be harvested the first year after planting, don’t really get going for a few more growing seasons. People who rent, or have a community garden that is tilled under every season, or who have pots on porches, don’t grow asparagus.

When I had my raised bed vegetable garden built, the center space was reserved for asparagus. It was a sign of commitment to this place. Besides, I love asparagus, which, like corn, tastes best if there are only minutes between harvesting and cooking. (This is true. If you only buy asparagus from Peru at the supermarket, you’ll be blown away by the difference of fresh and local, and even more so if it’s been picked steps from your back door.)

After a few years I was harvesting enough asparagus to serve it with spring dinners. I was eating the spears for mid-afternoon snacks. Then, one October, I made the mistake of letting Candy into the vegetable patch. I let her in the garden to have an outing with the hens, while they did the autumn bad bug clean-up. I thought she’d like a hop-around. I wasn’t paying attention. She dug a tunnel under the asparagus and ate the roots. All of them. My asparagus patch was felled by one bunny.

I’ve started another asparagus bed. Rabbits are banned. For now, though, I have to buy local asparagus. It’s just coming into the market.

This is my favorite way to cook it:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash the asparagus and snap off the ends. It should break where the tough stalk meets the stem. If the asparagus are fat, peel the stems at the bottom.

Place on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Dust with salt and pepper. Grate on Parmesan Reggiano cheese. It does cost over $15 a pound, but you don’t need much.

Place in the oven for 8 minutes. (Only 5 if the asparagus are thin like pencils.) Turn over, and bake for about 5 to 10 minutes more until the stalks are limp. Eat hot, or it’s also delicious as leftovers straight out of the fridge, with a squeeze of lemon at the last moment.


  1. That is exactly how I make it. Lemon and asparagus pair so nicely together. The bite of the hard parm cheese is perfect. I just got a friend to start making it this way and he said he will never steam it again. Baking gives it a nutty flavor!

  2. mmmmmmm, you can also try all the same over settings and all the same prep work but instead of grating cheese just put fresh cracked pepper, and squeezed lemon on them. bake them to the halfway point and turn them, then add chunked feta cheese and pine nuts during the last minute to two minutes. delicious! not so good on the re-heat though so this is really an all-tonight-or-nothing kinda method

    • Ken, at least the downed trees will give you a sunny spot for veggies! (just trying to look at the bright side of the tornado damage.)

  3. I grew up in a small town in Iowa. There were 2 elderly people, considered eccentric, who would go out in the ditches around our town and chop asparagus. As kids, we thought they were old crazy people, but they were probably wiser than we realized.

    • I’d like to see wild asparagus. It’s a pretty plant late in the summer, as Jane (comment below) mentions.

  4. I harvested my first crop this week – amazing plants – if you turn your back for just a few days the whole lot will bolt into beautiful fern like flowers

  5. My mom taught me to make it this way and to keep it crunchy, I add chopped shallot. My husband will not eat it so I have it all to my self, ummmmm his loss!

    • Love shallots. Maybe one of these days I’ll try growing them. My green thumb goes black when it comes to onions.

  6. Now that would be the last straw – the bunny would have to go it that happened to my asparagus bed!

    You’re right, once you’ve tasted home grown freshly picked asparagus nothing else matches up!

    It’s my favourite crop from our garden (apart from greengages)


    • Funny, Celia, that I wouldn’t put up with a raging rooster, and yet Tarragon lives on… and here you’d like me to dispatch a sweet little bunny? :)

  7. One of my faverourites is a Jamie Oliver recipe. Wrap the asparagus in pancetta with just the tips exposed. Smear a little oil on the tips and bake in a hot oven untill crisp. Serve as soildiers to dip in a soft boiled egg, ideal for lunch or light supper and makes the most of your eggs too.

    I have addapted this as a starter by adding a sprig of rosemary tucked into the exposed tips. Wrap with a smear of tomato puree and a sliver of cheese inside the pancetta (it is a bit fiddly and I prepare in advance). Roast untill crisp turning half way. I serve with some wilted salad greens. Amazing! I allow 3 or 4 each on both recipes.

  8. I love asparagus!! I was thinking of building a perenial garden bed with that and strawberries.
    I have a favor to ask of you. I am setting up a FB page for chickens and I need a pic of a chicken. Can I upload some of your pics from the webcam for my page?


  9. Terry, I am curious how many plants you put down in a raised bed and what the dimension of the raised bed was. I have three year old plants out in a 4×8 raised bed and just a few spears are emerging. Also, how tall do you let the spear get before harvest?

    Yummmm…I can barely stand the wait for the precious few spears I will get!

    • I can’t remember. I planted a tad closer than the tag directed. My experience was that the spears varied in diameter and height. I harvested when they looked right! You don’t want the tips opening.

  10. Asparagus takes such a lot of patience. My plant has been in 3 or 4 years now and last night we ate this years harvest. It was a taster of one spear each! I planted another the following year and this year it hasnt come up at all. (we have had a hard winter in England but an amazing spring) I should plant another but I am not sure I have the patience. Its a long game.

  11. Iv’e heard that asparagus is yummy, but I have never really had it myself. Hmmmm….

  12. Have you ever tried milkweed shoots? I haven’t, but I was reading some online articles about gathering the early shoots (no more than 6″) and cooking them the way you would asparagus. Some recommend parboiling first.

    Also you can cook & serve early milkweed pods- if I get to do so this summer I’ll let you know.

    • I love seeing the milkweed blow in the fall, but I’ve read that it’s poisonous to goats, and I think there’s issues with humans too (maybe a stage, or a part? No idea.) Since I am deadly allergic to foraged mushrooms, (discovered at a mycologists’ dinner!) I avoid any wild plant that has even a hint of toxicity. So, I’ve been tearing up milkweed from my meadow. Too bad, because the migrating butterflies love it.