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common name: Asparagus, Spargel, Asperge, Sparrowgrass
moist soil, clay soil, sandy soil, coastal
preferred soil pH: neutral
minimum temp: -35°C
USDA zone: 4 to 10
Perennial rhizomatous vegetable cultivated for its young shoots. Produces numerous arching stems of ferny foliage. White or pale greenish yellow flowers, male and females on separate plants, followed on female plants by small red berries.
Best in fertile, free draining, light sandy soil which is neither very acid or alkaline. Will tolerate quite a wide range of soils, including high levels of salt.
Normally grown in well prepared beds 1.2 metres wide, in double rows. An open but sheltered location is best. Plants should be left undisturbed for a considerable time and will continue cropping for about 20 years.
New plantings should not be cropped in the first year and only very lightly in the second year. The shoots (spears) are cut just below the soil surface, in late spring or early summer when about 15cm long.
Cut back foliage when it has turned yellow in autumn. Mulch thickly in winter.
From seed or more commonly by root division.
Highly valued for its delicate flavour. Only the young shoots (spears) are eaten. In cultivation since classical times.
Long history of use as a medicinal herb. Particularly good for the treatment of urinary problems and cleansing the liver and kidneys. An extract of the roots is normally used. It also has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, which may have a factual basis due to compounds found in the root.
European native, common in Eastern Europe. Occasionally found in the South-West of Britain, particularly around the Lizard and on Angelsey. Naturalised in other areas, such as North America.