This early-spring treat is one of the few perennial vegetable crops, so once you get a patch established, it will give you many years of delicious harvests for little work. Grow it in well-drained soil with a neutral pH. (Add lime to the soil if it is acidic.) Asparagus is usually planted in trenches from two-year-old plants called crowns. You can also start it from seed, but it will take an extra year or two to reach harvestable size.
Allow asparagus to grow without harvesting the year it is planted. In the second year, harvest spears that are 1/2-inch in diameter, but only for two weeks. Cut or break off 7- to 9-inch-long spears with tightly closed tips. In subsequent years, harvest for five to eight weeks, then allow the shoots to develop into ferny growth to build up the roots for the following year’s crop.
The shoots are prepared and served in a number of ways around the world, typically as an appetizer or vegetable side dish. In Asian-style cooking, asparagus is often stir-fried. Cantonese restaurants in the United States often serve asparagus stir-fried with chicken, shrimp, or beef. Asparagus may also be quickly grilled over charcoal or hardwood embers. It is also used as an ingredient in some stews and soups. In recent years, almost as a cycle dating back to early culinary habits, asparagus has regained its popularity eaten raw as a component of a salad.