Hi, I am Jane, a volunteer from Illinois , and I am helping Justin with the Grow Appalachia end of season tasks. This is my 15th visit to Red Bird since I first came here in 2002. You may remember (because I went on and on and on about it) that I started an asparagus patch on the Red Bird campus in the Spring of 2014. One of the first things I did when I got here this past weekend is to go check on the asparagus. Wooo Hoooo…There are 10 clumps of ferny asparagus tops sticking up in an otherwise pretty bleak little patch of garden.
Justin has kept the weeds down with a little help from some volunteers and he has kept the asparagus patch from being trampled by a nearby construction project. Thanks, Justin!!! Lots of folks thought I was crazy when I told them that asparagus takes 2 years to get started, but….guess what…next Spring will be harvest time!!! Well, at least a little harvest. Now that the asparagus has 2 Spring seasons behind it, there should be asparagus for years and years from now on out. The trick is to get the asparagus tucked into an out-of-the-way corner of the garden but don’t forget it altogether. I remember cutting asparagus with my Grandmother when I was just a kid. At that time I didn’t really like to eat the asparagus but I loved the lacy fern-like plants and their bright red berries. Gram has been gone now for over 20 years and my brother now owns her home, garden and barn lot. And the asparagus is still there!!! I remember Gram every time I see it and remember how much I enjoyed spending time with her as I helped her garden. I don’t think the harvest sheet has a space for the memories a garden yields or how long those memories will keep.
They say our taste changes over the years and I guess that is true. I love to eat asparagus now, and I especially appreciate how easy it is to cook. I just rinse the spears, coat them lightly with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle on a little lemon-pepper (or any seasoning that sounds good at the time). Then I drop them into a skillet with a little more olive oil. It only takes a few minutes for them to be slightly cooked, slightly crunchy and delicious. Instead of cooking in the skillet, you could put the spears on the grill for even more flavor. Gram always made a white sauce to serve with her asparagus. She just boiled the asparagus for a couple of minutes. She put the lid on the pan, so I guess she was actually steaming them.
In other news, now is a good time to cover garden soil with a light layer of compost mulch. Also partially composted material will be fully ready in Spring to be tilled under. This is a great way to build soil quality and add organic nutrients to the soil. Fall mulch will help hold soil in place during the winter rain, sleet, snow and wind. Oh, I don’t want to think about snow and such. I’ll just start looking at seed catalogs and let you know that, if you plant asparagus next spring, plant early, it likes to be in the ground by the end of March. Come to think of it, next March will be just about time for my next visit. No, make that April. I want to be here when my asparagus is ready for the skillet.