You’ve patiently waited for two, maybe even three years for your asparagus to be ready. And now, the main event is finally here! Read on to understand when to harvest your asparagus and how to delight in this crunchy, nutrient-dense vegetable.
When to harvest asparagus? Patience is a virtue and if you’re growing asparagus this is especially true. After waiting for two to three years for the asparagus crown, or roots, to develop, it is finally time to harvest.
Wait until the asparagus spears are at least ½ an inch thick and 8 to 10 inches tall. You can decide to harvest earlier if you want softer asparagus or later if you want tougher asparagus. Just don’t wait too long as really thick asparagus has a woody texture to it that makes it quite inedible.
Once ready, take a sharp pair of scissors or a knife. Cut the asparagus spears off right at the ground. If the bottom part is too tough, you can always remove it later. Once cut, you can enjoy your asparagus right away. If you want to wait, place the spears in a glass of water and place the whole thing in the fridge where it will keep up to a week.
Asparagus has a harvest period of two to three weeks. Once the first spears are ready, continue heading to your vegetable garden to harvest more. Keep doing this until the spears that emerge are the size of a pencil. Be sure to leave some spears unharvested so that nutrients can be brought to the root system. This will ensure you have a robust harvest the next year.
How do you know when your asparagus is ready to harvest?
Asparagus spears emerge from the ground in early spring. If anything it can be a bit exciting as one day there can be frost on the ground and the next day tiny bits of green are sprouting.
Depending on where you live, asparagus can be ready from March to June. The ground needs to be thawed but the soil temperature only needs to be 50 degrees Fahrenheit for it to start growing.
When you plant asparagus, you take the crown or roots of the plant and place them in the soil. The following year, you might see wispy bits of asparagus shoot up and be utterly disappointed.
Don’t be just yet as this plant needs patience. Hopefully, by the second year, your asparagus will emerge from the ground with a nice, robust shape to it. However, there is a chance it needs another year to grow and be edible.
For those that have wisps of asparagus, simply leave them be and keep maintaining the area. Water, weed and add a layer of mulch to protect the roots underground.
You might be tempted to try out that asparagus early but it’s important to keep it in the ground. This is so the delicate root structure has a chance to grow and develop, setting you up for years if not decades of harvesting.
By the second or third year, your patient waiting will pay off. It’s finally time to pick your asparagus!
First, check the diameter of your asparagus. While it’s ok to harvest thinner spears, you want them to at least be as thick as your finger, or roughly ½ an inch to ¾ of an inch thick.
Another important sign your asparagus is ready is if the spears are 8 to 10 inches tall.
When you pick is also all about your preference. Younger asparagus that you harvest earlier in the season will be thinner but it will also be more tender. Conversely, older asparagus will be thicker but have a woodier texture.
If you prefer younger asparagus, you need to move fast. In just a few days it can quickly grow and head towards that woody texture.
What happens if you don’t harvest asparagus?
One important aspect of harvesting asparagus is to actually leave some of the spears alone. This is done so that the perennial plant can absorb more nutrients and produce more spears the following year.
In fact, while you’re waiting for the first two years to go by, leave the spindly spears that emerge and let them develop foliage. Only cut them down in the fall or winter, after they have died back and turned yellow.
Asparagus spears that are not harvested will start to open up on their tips. Foliage will grow and continue to do so until a hard frost kills it.
Asparagus that is left too long is inedible. The spear itself will be thick and have a woody texture and won’t taste good.
If you happen to miss an entire harvesting season, it’s actually ok. The foliage will develop and nutrients will return to the root section.
Then, the spears will naturally turn yellow or brown from the frost before disintegrating back into the soil. Finally, in the spring new spears will emerge from the soil and you can hopefully get back into the habit of harvesting it.
How to harvest asparagus?
Asparagus is a perennial plant meaning it will keep producing each year and you don’t have to worry about planting new seeds. This makes it a fan favorite among gardeners.
When your asparagus is at least ½ an inch thick and 8 to 10 inches tall, it is ready to harvest.
Take a pair of sharp scissors or a knife and kneel down so you are at ground level. Snip right above the ground. There’s no need to worry about how far off the ground the cut is, so cut closer to the dirt to ensure you get as many asparagus spears as you want.
Amazingly, you can have a harvest period of up to two to three weeks with asparagus. The main trick is to head out to your garden daily to cut them down.
In just a matter of days, your asparagus can grow to be too large and then become inedible. Eventually, your asparagus will stop producing. Once you see spears that are less than ½ an inch thick, it’s time to finish the harvest season.
It’s incredibly important to leave a few spears in the ground. This will allow them to develop and open up, which will add nutrients to your root system, ensuring a healthy harvest the following year.
Should you wash asparagus after harvesting?
While you should wash asparagus before eating or cooking it, you do not need to wash it immediately after you harvest it. Instead, there’s a pretty simple way to keep asparagus fresh.
Pick a bunch of asparagus from your garden. You can either wrap it in a rubber band or keep it loose.
Fill up a jar or cup with clean water. Then, simply place the asparagus in this water, with the spear tips up, and then place everything in your fridge.
The asparagus will absorb some of the freshwater which will keep it from wilting. Change the water every two days and you can actually keep asparagus in your fridge for up to a week.
Depending on the size of your asparagus bed, you could be harvesting quite a large amount of it. If there is no desire from your neighbors for this tasty vegetable, keep it properly in your fridge so you don’t waste all your hard work.
An alternative is freezing your asparagus. Again, this works really well if you have a bunch of spears and want to enjoy the vegetable the whole year-round.
Start by removing the tougher ends of the asparagus, cutting or snapping off one inch. Then, decide if you want to freeze whole spears or cut spears. To cut the spears, space out about one to two inches, and make sure you include the spear tips.
The next step is to blanch your asparagus in boiling water for one minute. Then, place it in ice-cold water and then let it dry on a towel. Blanching will ensure a crisp texture as well as a bright green color.
Finally, place the blanched pieces of asparagus on a cookie tray and pop them in the freezer for a few hours. This way the pieces will freeze individually which makes it much easier to grab what you need at a later date.
Once frozen, place everything in an airtight container. Label and date your container and pop it in the freezer. Frozen asparagus can last up to one year.
Can you eat asparagus immediately after harvesting?
Yes, asparagus can be eaten right after harvesting. To ensure a crunchy texture, harvest the plant early in the morning when it is full of moisture.
If you have asparagus that is a bit wilted from the sun, simply place the bottom ends in a glass of water for an hour and the plant will absorb enough moisture for a crunchy taste.
Asparagus can take quite a bit of patience to grow, as it needs two to three years to become established. Once ready, cut off the spears and decide if you want to eat it raw, cooked, or save it for later.