Asparagus: The holy grail of veg?
I had properly given up on my wild asparagus. I planted 10 asparagus crowns from Franchi Seeds of Italy back in November and, having first left them in their packet in the porch for two weeks (what was I thinking?!), they looked like a haul of dead octopuses when I eventually got round to tucking them in for the winter. I crossed my fingers and hoped the asparagus still had some life in its bedraggled roots as I gentry laid each to rest like fallen warriors, their limbs carefully arranged on prepared mounds, then covered. Years ago I tried growing asparagus, and never had any success with it appearing… was I wasting my time again with this ritual?
Fast forward to early May, and the asparagus season had properly arrived. Not a sign of anything. Then the negative thoughts really set in… Perhaps it was me? Too hasty. Not precise enough. Too slap-dash for the elegant, ethereal, Lady-of-the-Lake-like asparagus. I tried to forget about the empty square metre bed (that I had carefully chosen, and prepared, under the mantra ‘an asparagus is for life, not just for eating’) yet it drew me like Malevich’s Black Square every evening. Every evening, I looked and saw Nothing. An Emptiness. A Void.
I couldn’t avoid the disappointment. Whilst I thoroughly enjoy Twitter-dom, it seemed that every Tweet was erupting into a quasi-revealed ‘Chinese army’ of asparagus spears… All except mine. Now, I know that asparagus takes a few years to get established, and you certainly shouldn’t pick any in the first year. I wasn’t expecting a harvest, but some signs of life would have been nice. Because asparagus doesn’t have any leaf before the edible bits arrive, you really have no idea if your plants are alive or dead.
A Couple of days ago, I gave up. I accepted my failure and decided to move on. I had some swede plug plants that needed a home, and they seemed a suitably contrary substitute to what I had hoped for. Swedes are utilitarian, grounded, down to earth. Visible! I would throw off this ridiculous obsessiveness over a mere vegetable. I would free myself.
I knelt and I struck the soil with my trowel… And then I saw it, just below the surface. A pale, glowing, ghostly spear… Teeny, tiny, but undoubtably… Asparagus!
In this kneeling position (just like the best way to find dropped pins on a slate floor) I put my head down with an ear to the ground and squinted. Then I saw two more spears, no bigger than half my little finger, already coloured (and camouflaged) since they were above ground. Well, I can’t tell you how my heart literally leapt. I jumped up and I punched the air for joy. Real joy! (There are some readers who, having struggled to grow something, will get this, and others who will wonder if I’m totally doolally).
With the thought that the spears might be being nibbled by visiting wildlife, I have covered these two plants with some upturned metal sieves. I’m not sure if the other eight crowns will produce anything, but I’ve also covered their patch with chicken wire and I’m hoping for the best.
I am, once again, a slave to the asparagus.