Monthly Archives: March 2009

Asparagus Season Favorite Recipes

Growing so fast you can almost see it!
You can’t wait till tomorrow to harvest.

In good weather, an asparagus spear can grow 10″ in a 24-hour period. Each crown sends up spears for about 6-7 weeks during the spring. The outdoor temperature determine how much time will be between each picking…early in the season, there may be 4-5 days between pickings and as the days and nights get warmer, you may have to pick every day. It is a lot of hard work to establish a good asparagus bed. Considering that the plants will generously produce for about 15 or 20 years, it’s worth it to give transplants a good start in a permanent home.

Asparagus is good and good for you.

The diameter of the spear does not indicate the quality or flavor of the vegetable. As the plants become older, the stems become larger in diameter. Asparagus is high in Folic Acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamine. In the rare event that I have too much asparagus to use while fresh, freezing is the best way to preserve the color and flavor.

My favorite asparagus recipe

Fettuccine with Asparagus

8-10 fresh asparagus spears (or one bunch)
3 Cups water

(salt to taste)
10-12 ounces fettuccine
2 Tablespoons butter (or 1Tablespoon margarine and 1 Tablespoon olive oil)
Juice of one small lemon
freshly ground pepper to taste
freshly ground nutmeg to taste (1/4 teas)

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Cut each spear on the bias in one inch length. Bring water to boil (add salt to taste). Add asparagus, when water returns to boil, cook one minute. Drain and reserve three or four Tablespoons cooking liquid. Drop fettuccine in water, cook to desired doneness. Drain. Heat butter in pot that cooked fettuccine. Add asparagus, pasta, pepper, cooking liquid and lemon. Toss to blend. Sprinkle on nutmeg . Serve with cheese on the side. For variety, add a couple Tablespoons of toasted walnuts. Serves four. Enjoy this recipe by Patsy Bell Hobson. I’ll post more recipes if there is a request for them.

BONUS: this recipe for Roasted Fresh California Asparagus with Pecorino Romano Cheese from the California Asparagus Commission.

Grow Your own

The best way to establish an asparagus bed is at Growing Asparagus in Missouri guide sheet which illustrates the parts of an asparagus plant, clear care instructions and the best way to start an asparagus bed..

What I learned from experience

I started my first asparagus bed with older heirloom varieties. The plants were productive and the produce was tasty. Plus, there was a bonus, I thought. Asparagus is a dioecious plant which simply means they are separate female and male plants. Oh yea! Even the birds will be happy enjoying the red berries or seed on the female asparagus plants.

Well, those seed are the reason we think that sometimes we find wild asparagus plants. All those little asparagus plants springing up from seed, come up with the vigor and enthusiasm of a weed These cute but scrawny baby asparagus plants self seed everywhere – in the yard, flower beds and vegetable garden.

This time, as I establish a permanent asparagus bed, I’m starting with all male asparagus plants – Jersey types. Plus, there really is a bonus, all male plants produce more spears than female plants. Asparagus is not for the birds. Buy bird seed instead.

Hard times reap profits for seed catalogs

One business that is thriving in these uncertain economic times are the seed sellers. People’s anxiety has fertilized the garden industry which has seen a huge increase in sales this season.

“I wouldn’t say people are panicking. It’s more like they are anxious,” said Bill Timmsen, Human Resources Director at Baker Creek. Vegetable seed sales have more than doubled this year. Baker Creek had been experiencing a slight growth every year, but this spring, seed orders started pouring in early and haven’t stopped.

“It’s more like folks just don’t know. We can’t see tomorrow. We don’t know how bad things are going to get. Growing our own food is one way we can have some control.”

Washington is using the term “shovel- ready” to designate projects that are ready to start creating jobs the minute funding arrives. That shovel-ready work has already started in America’s back yards.

Amid the Washington talk of “shovel-ready” recession projects, few projects are more shovel-ready than a backyard garden. Vegetable seed sales are up by double-digits at all of the nation’s biggest seed sellers.

“ After years of declining veggie seed sales the whole cycle has completely reversed and we are experiencing tremendous interest from a new generation of gardeners who want to, for the first time, start a garden to grow food, said Renee Shepherd, owner of Renee’s Garden.

During a recession, it is a predictable cycle. People tend to want to get back to the basics. But most seed growers have never experienced a jump in sales this large.

“All our seed sales have increased,” said Timmsen and particularly our vegetables seeds.

tomato seedlings

Baker Creek

Renee’s Garden

Nichols Garden

Tomatoes by the Bale

Straw Bale Gardening

I order seed and herb plants most every year from Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany,OR. I didn’t know much about herbs when I started my first herb garden. But, armed with a copy of Herb Companion and a seed catalog from Nichols, I plunged into culinary herbs.

I can’t say I have the same herbs I planted 20 years ago because I’ve moved. But I am starting a new garden with the same tools for success: herb plants or seed from Nichols Herbs and Rare Seeds Catalog and the most current news about herbs in Herb Companion Magazine.

This year my little garden will be expanded by adding straw bales for gardening. I learned about that from Rose Marie Nichols McGee. She tells all on her website.

Gardening friends and neighbors have always visited over the garden fence. This year Rose Marie and I are going to compare notes about our straw bale gardens by way of our blogs.

Riesentraube tomato

Heirloom Tomatoes are ordered and will be delivered from Abundant Acres by planting time. I’ll be planting some tomatoes by the traditional method and others in bales.

Dr Carolyn tomato

The straw bale gardening method is a new territory for me. I’ll keep you posted every step of the way, tracking what works and what doesn’t.

The exciting news is that you’ll also get to learn from the master, as Rose Marie shares here adventures in straw bale gardening.

Whirlybird Nasturtiums

One thing I know for sure because I’ve already ordered the seed, my bale will gave a little added color with Whirlybird Nasturtiums poked in some of the bales.

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