Did You Know?

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a perennial plant arising from large root clusters called crowns.  The tops of asparagus usually die back in the winter and regrow from the root crowns in the early spring.  Asparagus is native to much of Europe and is adapted to most temperate areas.  The plants are well adapted to coastal areas and can tolerate saltier soils than many other vegetables – good for us because our water tends to have fairly high salt levels.  Asparagus are dioecious with male and female flowers on separate plants.  Female plants produce red berries which birds enjoy and which can result in asparagus self-seeding in unwanted areas.

Types of Asparagus

Most varieties are green but there are some purple stemmed varieties as well.  UC- 157 is an outstanding green variety grown commercially.  Purple Passion is a purple stemmed variety which is somewhat sweeter than green varieties.  Some gardeners prefer the male varieties to reduce self-seeding.  Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, and Jersey Supreme are all male types that have done well for us.

When to Plant

Asparagus can be grown from seed planted in the fall but since it can take two to three years before the plants are large enough to harvest, many growers prefer to plant one- or two-year-old root crowns.  Asparagus is a long-lived plant – 15 to 20 years or more – so the planting site should be well prepared by deep tillage and adding a good deal of organic matter and appropriate fertilizer.  Take the time to eliminate weeds as well and put in irrigation.  In our area, crowns are planted in January through February in trenches 6 to 8 inches deep.  As the asparagus emerges, the soil is gradually used to cover the stems until the trench is filled in.  Asparagus are heavy feeders and will need additional nitrogen annually.  It is also helpful to mulch the asparagus beds to add additional organic matter and suppress weeds.  Most gardeners remove the asparagus stems in the winter after they have gone dormant – this is the best time to add mulch as well.  If you are short on vegetable garden space, the tall fernlike fronds of asparagus can make a nice landscape plant.

Harvest and Storage

A light harvest can be taken from two-year-old plants with more substantial harvests from three year and older plants. Asparagus stems can either be broken off or cut off slightly below the soil surface.  Do not cut so deep that you injure the crown or other emerging stems.  Asparagus stems grow very quickly in the spring and may need harvesting every other day.  Stems are generally harvested at 6 to 8 inches long and the fattest stems are often the most tender.  The diameter of the stem as it emerges will be its final diameter – they get longer but not thicker.  Asparagus can be “blanched” to produce white stems by keeping the emerging stems from sunlight by covering them with straw or other light mulch.  As the season progresses the stems usually begin to shrink in diameter – this is a sign that the plant is beginning to stress, and harvest should stop to let the plant fully emerge and replenish itself for next year. The harvest from mature plants is usually 5 to 6 weeks.  To store asparagus put the stems upright in a jar with a bit of water at the bottom and cover with a plastic bag then keep in the refrigerator.  They will keep this way for a week, but the flavor of asparagus is absolutely at its best immediately after harvest.  We eat quite a few raw asparagus right in the garden. 

By:  Michael Vidrine

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 people


  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 1/2 cups asparagus cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup Messina Hof Private Reserve Trebbiano
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • sour cream optional, for garnish
  • fresh dill optional, for garnish


  • In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  • Add the asparagus and sauté for about 5 minutes, until it turns bright green.
  • Add the wine and deglaze the pan, reduce by half.
  • Add the chicken broth, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, until asparagus is very soft.
  • Pour soup into a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.
  • Transfer soup back to the pot. Add heavy cream and stir until heated through.
  • Garnish with sour cream and dill to serve.


RECIPE BY: Ezekiel Reissig

Wine Pairings for Dishes with Asparagus

as recommended by Karen Bonarrigo & Merrill Bonarrigo

3 Mistakes to Avoid when Pairing Wine with Asparagus:

  • Asparagus has an acid that can produce sulfur compounds. It is strong and can clash with wine.  Use wines that are light, delicate, and low in tannic acid. 
  • Rich egg-based sauces can cover the strong flavors and make the asparagus more compatible with heavier wines. Try to avoid acidic sauces unless you have the egg-based sauce.
  • Overly sweet wines will overcome the asparagus and mute the flavors.
  • Recommended wines:

Merrill and Karen Bonarrigo, Wine and Food Pairing experts at Messina Hof Wine Cellars, Inc.

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