For the average person, asparagus is a fairly gourmet new product that has only recently appeared on vegetable markets. And, although many have seen green original, fluffy twigs, which are also used as decoration for bouquets, perhaps only a few know that this is the very asparagus that can be eaten: however, in the form of candlesticks, and not stems with foliage. It's time to figure out what kind of vegetable it is, what are the edible types of asparagus: the names, descriptions and photos are given below in the article.
What is asparagus
Real asparagus looks like a perennial shrub plant or in the form of shoots growing directly from the ground - it depends on the variety. The stems of shrub varieties reach 120 - 160 cm in height, with soft green leaves resembling needles. This is an early vegetable crop, ripening by the beginning of April, in which only the upper part of the stem is of particular value: true gourmets consider it a real delicacy.
Edible shoots are formed no earlier than in the third year of the culture's life. In stem-like plants, they are cut off as soon as they reach 16 - 20 cm in height (ideally - 22 cm), at this age the shoots are the most juicy and soft, and their heads are still dense and unblown. Usually the harvesting period starts from April 18 and lasts until July 20 - 24, after which the vegetable loses its tenderness and becomes tough. On average, this time is 7 to 8 weeks. The cut stems are wrapped in a damp cloth to keep them fresh for as long as possible.
Asparagus is eaten both raw by adding to salads and by heat treatment. On an industrial scale, the vegetable is canned, while the taste and useful qualities somewhat lose their value.
What family does the asparagus belong to?
The Latin name for this plant is Asparagus officinalis: it was previously assigned to the Lily family. However, not so long ago, the classification was revised, and now the culture belongs to the Asparagus family. Asparagus is a dioecious plant, which means that female and male shoots are needed for pollination.
Where does asparagus grow
Asparagus is ubiquitous, and you can find it both in Central and Southern Europe, and in northern Africa, western Asia, as well as in all regions of Russia, even in Siberia.
The plant prefers shaded areas, feels good on sandy soils, reacts favorably to heat and moisture. However, on a par with that, asparagus has adapted well to the harsh climatic conditions and tolerates long and frosty winters well, adapting well to heavy snowfalls.
What does an asparagus plant look like?
You can see how asparagus looks in nature in the photo below. It is clearly seen that asparagus does not need special care, in addition, it feels good in the neighborhood with other plant species.
At the same time, in order to achieve a high yield, it is necessary to create favorable conditions, weed and fertilize regularly. In the photo, you can evaluate what an adult asparagus plant looks like, grown in the garden, and not in the wild.
Firstly, the sprouts of the garden species are more powerful, and secondly, there are much more of them on one tuber - about 10 - 12.
Asparagus is very rich in vitamins and useful microelements, therefore only those shoots that were cut no more than 3 to 4 days ago are valued in cooking. If more time has passed, a significant part of the micronutrients is lost, and asparagus loses its nutritional value. Fresh asparagus should look shiny, firm and crunchy with dense heads and dry cuts. If they are lethargic and dull, this is a sign that the vegetable is no longer fresh.
And, although there are more than two hundred varieties of asparagus, only three main varieties can be eaten:
- Green: the most common, and therefore cheaper than the other two. However, it is in green asparagus that the highest content of vitamins is present, and it is the most useful;
- White: in comparison with green, it has a more delicate and subtle taste. It is considered an exotic product, along with truffles and artichokes. Shoots that are slightly thicker than green asparagus, and their white color is achieved by growing plants in mulch without access to light, which blocks the production of chlorophyll, and this is what gives the fruit a sophisticated taste;
- Violet: the rarest species with a noticeable bitter taste. The plant acquires its unusual color thanks to a special growing technology, during which the time of its stay in the dark and in the light alternates.
According to the classification, there are several varieties of inedible asparagus:
- Soy, which is made from soybeans, is subsequently used to obtain soy milk;
- Bean: this species has nothing in common with asparagus and belongs to a different culture;
- Cristate: it looks like asparagus only externally, but in fact, it is a herb;
- Marine: grows in the coastal area and has a salty flesh. It is not used in domestic cooking, but it can be found in Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine;
- Decorative: it is thin-leaved, multi-leaved and pharmacy. The culture is used to decorate gardens and rockeries.
Attention! It is not uncommon for inexperienced gardeners to acquire inedible plants under the guise of real asparagus.
The best varieties of asparagus
When choosing asparagus varieties for cultivation for personal purposes, you should definitely take into account the timing of the harvest, as well as the adaptability of each to certain climatic conditions.
Asparagus varieties for Siberia
- Arzhentelskaya. Large-fiber shoots with dark pink tips have a yellowish flesh. This variety is the most popular in Siberia, is characterized by frost resistance and early ripening, which is good for a short summer;
- Tsarskaya. This variety is also very well adapted to the harsh climatic conditions of Siberia and is able to withstand frosts down to -30 ° C in winter. In addition, Royal Asparagus is drought-resistant and has high immunity. Its stems contain white, fleshy, very tender pulp, which is distinguished by its high taste;
- Mary Washington. An early ripe variety with green, very juicy and crunchy shoots, forming on the 3rd - 4th year after sowing. The plant easily withstands frosts down to -30 ° C in winter, drought-resistant in summer and practically not susceptible to diseases and pests;
- Ligurian. This early maturing variety of asparagus is purple and also thrives in the Siberian region. The shoots have a delicate, very delicate taste and, unlike other varieties of this type, do not taste bitter at all. The pulp is soft, slightly oily, sweet has a creamy texture;
- Connovers Colossal. The cultivar has long, bright green candles with deep purple tips. Differs in high productivity, unpretentious care and delicious taste. It grows well on sandy soil and, in addition to feeding, does not require special attention;
- Delicacy. Mid-season, cold-resistant variety with green, scaly shoots with delicate flesh and delicate taste. The crop is harvested, starting in May, for 1.5 months, by cutting off the shoots that have reached a diameter of 1.0 - 1.2 cm. After that, the bush is immediately spud.
Asparagus varieties for the middle strip
Below are photos and descriptions of the most popular types and varieties of asparagus for growing in the middle lane:
- Enjoyment. Delight asparagus shoots are distinguished by their creamy white color and delicate, incredibly tasty pulp. The variety has good resistance to diseases and pests, easily tolerates drought, as well as sudden changes in temperature;
- Glory to Braunschweig. This late-ripening variety is characterized by a huge number of white-fleshed shoots, the main purpose of which is conservation. The culture is resistant to lower temperatures, has good transportability and taste. During the growing season, up to 250 g of the product can be removed from one plant;
- Gainlim. An early ripe high-yielding foreign variety with good taste characteristics and high-quality fruits;
- Snow head. Long shoots have a pointed, creamy green head. Their pulp is very delicate, with a creamy texture, it has a delicate aroma, as well as a taste of green peas. The variety belongs to the early maturing. It is resistant to disease and is not afraid of the asparagus fly;
- Yielding. Delicate white shoots with juicy pulp topped with the same white head. The variety is mid-season, well adapted to various climatic conditions, easily tolerates temperature changes;
- Dutch green. High-yielding variety with juicy green shoots, very delicate taste, no bitterness;
- Early yellow. Delicate yellowish green shoots with creamy pulp taste great. The variety is early ripe, the fruits are intended both for raw consumption and for canning, or heat treatment;
- Xenolim. The pale green petioles of this early maturing variety reach up to 25 mm in diameter. From one square meter of planting, you can collect up to 3 - 3.5 kg of selected shoots, valued for their excellent taste and exquisite aroma.
What varieties of asparagus are best for planting in the garden
Vegetable varieties of asparagus suitable for planting in open ground in the garden must have a high immunity to common diseases and also withstand various weather conditions. The most common varieties to grow in all regions are:
- Mary Washington;
- Cumulus F1;
- Mikhnevskaya early;
- Dutch green.
In addition, experienced gardeners can turn their eyes to the very productive variety Brock Imperial, which, with proper care, has very high yields.
If you choose the right variety of asparagus for planting, this plant can grow in one place for up to 15 - 25 years without transplanting, annually delighting with a good harvest.
It is also important to spray the stems of the plant as a preventive measure, since some species are susceptible to the most dangerous enemies of asparagus, such as the asparagus fly and the asparagus leaf beetle. These parasites are capable of causing irreparable harm to the bush, eating not only young, but also old plantings. As a result of their vital activity, the shoots are bent and turn yellow, which damages the taste and dietary qualities of the final product.
Asparagus is an unpretentious and very beneficial plant for the health of the body, due to the high nutritional value of its shoots. Therefore, when choosing a vegetable in stores, it is important to pay attention to its freshness. If you grow this perennial crop yourself on your site, you can provide yourself with a fresh delicacy. And although most often the plant is planted for decorative purposes, recently gardeners are increasingly interested in growing asparagus on their land plots as a vegetable crop.