Asparagus has been in cultivation over 2,500 years, and in the United States since the l870's.
Asparagus is planted in the ground three years before it can be harvested for the full season. First comes the seed, then comes the plant, then the plant is harvested only a short time to allow for growth, then comes the mature plant that can be harvested all season.
Yes, that is true. When the spears emerge from the ground, the sunlight turns the stalks green. To get white asparagus, dirt is piled on top of the plants so that the stalks can grow underground. When the tip breaks the soil surface, the worker probes under ground with his special knife to cut the stalk. This stalk is all white.
Studies acquired by the California Asparagus Commission indicate that green asparagus is higher in a number of nutrients. For example, green asparagus contains nearly 3 grams of protein per 100 grams of edible portion while white asparagus contains slightly less than 2 grams. Green asparagus contains nearly twice the amount of ascorbic acid and calcium than white asparagus. Furthermore, green asparagus contains more than twice the thiamin and niacin.
Asparagus will grow 7" in a day when the temperatures reach 90 degrees. Some say you can watch asparagus grow. The asparagus beds are cut every day and the length of harvest is generally 70 - 80 days.
This is a matter of personal preference. Some people think that jumbo asparagus is old asparagus and is left in the field to get old or fat. Asparagus is harvested every day during the season - the larger sized asparagus comes from younger, more vigorous plants as a rule while the smaller sized asparagus comes from older plants or plants that have been planted closer together than usual.
In California, a commercial planting lasts generally eight to twelve years, depending on various factors. Some fields have been known to last longer, and some not as long.
California asparagus producers pride themselves on producing an extra long green spear allowing for more edible product per bunch. When you purchase California asparagus, there is less waste, as you simply need to trim the butt end before cooking. The bottom portion of the spear seals the moisture inside the spear keeping it fresh. When preparing asparagus, simply make a fresh cut at the butt end of the spear. Instead of discarding, the butt can then be peeled, cooked and pureed for stock, soups, and sauces.
The grower has a large investment when he plants an asparagus field. Because of the nature of asparagus, the plants are in the ground three years before the grower really begins to receive any revenue from the planting. And also because of the nature of asparagus, the planting has to be hand-harvested every day or every other day depending on the weather, by an experienced asparagus worker. The workers hand select all spears that have 9" or more of green color on the spear, leaving the rest to be cut the next day when they are ready for harvest. All the asparagus is hand-handled from field, through the packing lines and into the crates to be shipped to your market. Special attention is taken to making sure the delicate tips remain unbroken. The many sorters working on the various lines normally discard any spears with broken tips, scars, insect damage, and spear curvature. Recent California asparagus industry cost studies determined that approximately 70% of the cost of asparagus production is labor.
Since different asparagus varieties are suited for different geographical areas, it would be advisable to contact your local nurseryman or university extension service for advice on varieties and cultural practices for your area.
Major disease problems include Fusarium wilt decline, Phytophthora root rot and asparagus rust. Major insect problems include garden centipede, cutworm, thrips, and the European asparagus aphid.
California produces approximately 70% of the domestic fresh supply in the United States with principal states of Washington and Michigan providing the balance. Others states also grow asparagus in smaller quantities; however, California, Washington and Michigan are considered the major asparagus growing states.
It is perfectly natural, however, according to one source, 80% of the population will develop an odor while 20% will not. This source says the natural chemical that creates the odor is called aspartic acid. It is found in the amine group and the odor is characteristic of this amine group. The 80% of the population cannot metabolize the acid so it goes straight through the system, thus the odor.
Another source says asparagus contains certain compounds that, when metabolized, may produce a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals that have a strong, distinctive odor and are excreted in the urine.
Another source thinks only certain people have a gene for smelling the pungent chemicals while others believe that only certain people have a gene for producing the chemical in the first place.
So...take your pick!