Different Asparagus Varieties What to Expect

There are many varieties of asparagus to choose from with the most visibly different being the purple varieties.

White asparagus is not a separate variety but is grown under different growing conditions.

Whilst some varieties are naturally taller or thinner than others growing conditions also affect the shape of the spears.

There are many varieties of asparagus to choose from with the most visibly different being the purple varieties.

White asparagus is not a separate variety but is grown under different growing conditions.

Whilst some varieties are naturally taller or thinner than others growing conditions also affect the shape of the spears.

Other very important factors which vary according to the variety include flavour, tenderness, time of growth, suitability to different soils and climates and yield per plant.

Be sure to think carefully about which variety or range of varieties will suit your growing conditions best if you are thinking of planting an asparagus bed.

3 varieties of asparagusLeft to right - Pacific Purple, Pacific 2000 and Mondeo

Hybrids versus non Hybrids

7 varieties of asparagusFrom Left - Ariane, Millenium, Mondeo, Pacific 2000, Pacific Purple, Stewart Purple, Tesco's un-named!!!

Some hybrid asparagus varieties have been bred to provide male only asparagus plants. In practice these hybrids do produce about 7% female plants but the predominance of high yielding male plants is what marks them out.Examples include Guelph Millenium and Mondeo.

The benefit of male plants is that they do not produce seed which gives them more energy to produce higher yields (as much as 2 to  3 times the yield can be expected). In addition to having a higher yield the male plants have no seeds to drop and seeds produce seedlings that will affect the size and yield of spears produced by the planted crowns.

Having said this there are some hybrid varieties that do not produce predominantly male plants but that are well worth planting for their special qualities. Examples include   Ariane, Pacific 2000, Pacific Purple and Stewarts Purple.

The information on this link will tell you more about asparagus hybrid development.

Our Head to Head Taste Test

Unless you have asparagus beds with lots of varieties its unusual to be able to taste more than one or two different varieties head to head. Our Asparabuddie of Hargreaves Plants who are major suppliers of asparagus crowns to growers and have an extensive testing program sent us six asparagus varieties to compare. Here is what we found in a very unscientific blind testing.

Bearing in mind that all of them were delicious and far exceeded the flavour of shop bought these were the comments on each. Needless to say we didn't all agree!

Ariane - very nice, good flavour

Millenium - very nice chunky, a bit bitter raw

Mondeo - Incredibly tender, more stringy end, more delicate, more subtle flavour, bland

Pacific 2000 - Very tender, great flavour, similar to Mondeo for flavour, slightly bitter raw

Pacific Purple - bit watery, not as much flavour, more woody, bland

Stewarts Purple - not as watery as Pacific Purple, one of the nicest, very sweet

Tesco's - quite nice, slightly mushy

Note where comparisons were made the names of the varieties were not used but we worked it out from the numbers we gave each one.

All in all we thought that Stewart Pacific was very very good and all the greens were amazing and beat Tesco's offering hands down. We were a bit underwhelmed by Pacific Purple.

Some Popular Asparagus Varieties

A rnage of varieties of asparagusAsparagus Varieties in Preparation for Tasting

The comments on each are a distillation of what the various suppliers and growers claim for their products

Connovers Colossal – This asparagus variety is bright green with purple tips, produces a good yield for a non hybrid. It dates back to the 1800’s. It is a well tried and tested popular older variety with an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Typical cost 10 crowns for £15.

Martha Washington – this strong growing variety is an American favourite. The long thick spears are emerald green and it has an extra long harvesting season. One supplier claims it is good for freezing, we will have to test this out....can anyone confirm this? It is resistant to rust and is an open pollinated variety. Typical costs seeds £3 for 50 seeds.

Gijnlim F1 hybrid – is a Dutch variety recommended by some Kent asparagus growers. It is adaptable liking either clay or sandy soils. It has a heavy crop early to mid season and has an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Backlim F1 hybrid – is another Dutch variety not quite as highly recommended as the Gijnlim. Again with an RHS Award of Garden Merit this variety has a high resistance to rust. It produces a good crop mid to late season and the spears are thick with well closed tips.

Ariane - produces lots of large spears early in the season

Stewarts Purple – this asparagus variety is more tender and sweet than the green variety’s and is good eaten raw in salads, sipped into dressing etc. Its colour is lost if cooked so if you are going to cook it steaming is best.

Pacific Purple F1 - This variety is from New Zealand. As its name suggests it produces purple spears which are sweet and tender and very good eaten raw. Typical cost £15 for 10 crowns.

Pacific 2000 - Unusually there are two varieties of pacific 2000 one for spring and one for autumn planting. Make sure you get the right one! Again from New Zealand this variety was voted the best in commercial grower tests in 2006. It grows vigorously and the spears are uniform, green, tender, not stringy with a heavy crop and great flavour. typical cost 10 crowns £15.

Purple Passion - The spears are good and thick, not quite as thick as Jersey Giant. The spears are very very tender and are purple when harvested. They lose some of their colour when cooked and are often eaten raw. The flavour is mild and nutty and the sugar content is 20% higher than many others.

Mondeo - A variety with good disease resistance, great yields, great flavour and cropping early in the season. Typical cost 10 crowns for £17.

Jersey Knight F1 hybrid – one source tells us that this all male hybrid has flavoursome tender spears up to 2cm thick and a high tolerance to Fusarium - crown and root rot. Another tells us the spears are thinner than those of Jersey King which has medium diameter spears. This seems a little contradictory! It will grow in poor salty or alkaline soil. The crop comes slightly later than Jersey Giant so you can extend your season by planting both. It is hardy even in sub zero weather and will crop for up to 20 years. 5 1 year old plants might set you back £17.50.

Jersey Giant F1 hybrid - this variety is a good choice for cold climates although it is perfectly happy in other climates too. It has thicker spears than either Jersey King or Jersey Knight although not quite so many as Jersey King. It has a strong flavour and is resistant to fusarium - crown rot and rust.

Jersey King F1 hybrid - another hybrid with medium diameter stalks which are best harvested when they are about 7 inches tall. Adaptable to most climates this variety is easy to grow in humus composted soil.

Eros F1 hybrid - The large purple green spears originate from Italy. They grow well in sandy soils as well as in heavier clay soils.

Guelph Millenium F1 hybrid - If you live in the north of England this may be the variety for you. It comes from Canada and has excellent tolerance to cold winters. It is good in poorer soils and is an all male variety of asparagus.

Thielim F1 hybrid - Early to crop and with a good yield this hybrid is a recent introduction that is less susceptible to Botrytis.

You might want to look out for combination offers where you buy typically 5 crowns of each of four varieties of asparagus plant to give a good spread of complementary varieties.

We've been reviewing crown and seed suppliers to help you buy online here.

Gus enjoying Asparagus SeasonGus enjoying Asparagus Season

The easiest way to cook Asparagus!

All you need is a microwave a plastic Fish / Veg. Steamer and and our instructions.

Asparagus ready to cook in the microwave

Take look at some of our Interesting and Popular Pages

Blanching Asparagus
Blanching Asparagus

Wellies and Tools ready for the garden
Growing Asparagus

Asparagus on the Grill Grilled Asparagus

Asparagus Store at Festival Asparagus Festivals

If you want the

Basics of how to cook fresh asparagus

start by looking at How to Cook Asparagus first for some background information on a range of cooking methods.

Link to us or Contact us

If you would like to put a link on your facebook page or website please feel free to do so. If you would like us to put a link back to your site send us a message and we will get back to you. The html code and our contact details are on the contact page.

 Ask the Expert

We have our own Asparagus Growing Expert ready to answer any questions we can't answer so ask away. All your asparagus growing questions resolved.