This is what you have been waiting for harvesting asparagus time!
Hang on, Slow down, are you sure? is it time yet? The last thing you want to do after spending all that time making sure you know how to grow asparagus is to start harvesting asparagus at the wrong time, cut too many asparagus spears and weaken you asparagus bed for years to come. So lets think about how to harvest asparagus. Advice seems to vary but there is a common theme. You must not harvest too much too soon or you will weaken your plants.
Year 0 - seed planting (if you started this way)- obviously no cutting
Year 1 - transplanting crowns / planting crowns - once planted just leave the plants to grow (no cutting to eat)
Year 2 - 1st cutting maybe? Advice varies from no cutting at all this year to cutting just one stem per plant. Best to just be patient and let them grow. Maybe try talking to them, you never know it might help!!!
Year 3 - 1st real year of cutting. Some suggest that you can now cut for a full season others suggest cutting for just 3 - 5 weeks.
Year 4 and onwards - by now if you have been patient you should be able to work up to cutting for an 8 week season.
In no year should you be considering asparagus harvesting for more than 8 weeks from the first cutting or you will weaken you crop for the following year.
Whichever year you are in you need to cut your asparagus when it reaches about 4-6inches (10-15cm)in length.
You need to cut the spears before the tips start to open up to form asparagus ferns. When the tips open up a substance called Lignin is produced which makes the bottom part of the stalk tougher. This is the plants way of preparing the stalks to bear the weight of the ferns. You want to cut the spears before they reach this stage.
You will get to learn how tall your spears get before they start to open up but often when its warm it will be a case of cutting all the asparagus spears that have come up that day. A typical height might be 6-9 inches.
Using a sharp knife with a serrated edge (you can buy special asparagus knives) cut the asparagus cleanly 2- 10cm (1"-4") below the ground. Take care not to cut the crown of the plant burried beneath the spear.
From early May you will need to harvest aparagus every other day and then as it gets warmer every day. A spear can grow 15cm or 6" in a day when the weather is right!
For best results cook and eat your asparagus harvest within a couple of hours although of course you can keep it in the fridge, give some to your friends or freeze it.
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The easiest way to cook Asparagus!