White Asparagus (cont)
By: Christopher O. Bird
Plant Care After Harvest
Uncut asparagus spears eventually grow into 6-foot-tall fernlike bushes, with attractive red berries on female plants. An important point: Let the plants grow as big as they want. Don't cut them back, because top growth is proportional to root growth, and you want maximum root growth if you also want a maximum harvest. Little weeding is needed due to the dense shade provided by the cover.
In all but the hottest climates, plants die back to the ground in the fall. Either way, cut them down then. After that, because the soil level usually sinks a little during the growing season, I top it off in late winter with an inch of fine bark mulch. It's attractive and eventually decomposes into soil. But because pine bark acidifies soil, I check the soil pH annually and sometimes add some fireplace ashes or lime to bring the pH closer to neutral.
Menu Options for White Asparagus
Several dishes, such as veal Oscar, call for white asparagus. In Germany, cooks make a mouthwatering cream of white asparagus soup. But we usually just steam ours until barely tender, then add butter, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. (Children often prefer asparagus to other vegetables, because it's one veggie that proper etiquette permits us to eat with our fingers.) We try to save our white asparagus for special meals, though. If you've never tried it -- and especially if you think don't like asparagus -- you're in for a treat.
Christopher O. Bird is the author of Modern Vegetable Gardening. He lives and gardens in Riner, Virginia.