The wife and I were cruising about, looking for the proverbial palette of Fall colours, but were a bit too early. So we took consolation in the brilliant golden fronds of wild asparagus. Wild asparagus eh ? I remembered a few incidents earlier in the Spring. While returning Home from our trusty morel forging trail, we noticed some guy scrounging about on the roadside very near the trail access. Did he have a pet-patch of morels? It was kinda like on the roadside, but kinda like not. Ya know what I mean? Anyway, the wife and I knew where to find plenty, so there was no need to be greedy. As morel season wound down, we noticed he didn’t mow the grass on the spot he had looked at. Now there’s a glorious stand of golden asparagus fronds reaching for the sky.
Later that same Spring, Ranger and I saw a woman wandering down an unmarked path we’d been watching for months. It was one of those paths so close to a residence that we hesitated to explore it (we finally did just last week and it was fantastic!). A woman with a dog on the trail was perfect. We pulled over and asked if she could tell us where the trail went. In very broken English, she said she didn’t know. She was just there with her husband (we hadn’t noticed him) while he collected wild asparagus. We looked up and saw him with a couple of fully packed grocery bags.
Now I’ve seen asparagus in the grocery store, and it’s really kinda small, and would be rather hard to see in a ditch or along the side of the road covered in last Fall’s fall-downs. So, I assume the only way a guy could find it (reliably) was to have a pretty good notion of where to look in the Spring. Hence, the last few wednesdays wandering with Ranger.
I thought we could simply take odometer readings from the start of a road to the asparagus patch. We tried that, and it wasn’t anywhere near accurate enough. We tried to think of ways to mark the side of the road, or the spot off the road where they were. I assume a GPS would pin-point the location, but I could never get mine to work right. So, we had to come up with something else. Ranger jokingly suggested spray paint marks on the roadside like the gas and hydro marks you see around. We both had a little chuckle over the joke. Then I made a mental note to tell the wife not to mention that I’d seriously considered it just a few days earlier. Somehow, when someone else said it, it sounded as ludicrous as it was.
I took a small notebook with us, and we cruised the back-roads in search of the wispy pale green or vibrant yellow/gold of the elusive asparagus. Turns out, it’s not the slightest bit elusive. In fact, there were so many, we had to come up with some boundaries to bring things into perspective. We didn’t record any patches with less than half a dozen stems, and they had to be a good 3 feet tall. Even with those conditions, we still recorded near 60 worthwhile patches in just three, 7 hour days. Most descriptions are rather long winded and rather intricate like : On Benson Rd, North from 6th Concession, between 3rd and 4th telephone pole on east side, on both sides of apple tree. While I’m scribbling this novel onto a 3 X 2 inch note pad using the steering wheel of my truck for a desk, Ranger “helps” with additional data like “Across from the heifer, beside the crow, and directly under the turkey vulture”. Yes, he’s my bud, but some days you just wanna …
Ranger and I were heading south on a back-road when we started to spot asparagus patches on both sides of the road. They were small at first, but increased in thickness and stalks/patch as we continued south. Finally, we stopped and began recording their locations, when ranger says “Oh yeah ! Look at that patch of ‘em”. He was, of course, being a smart-ass. It was a huge plot of garden-tended asparagus in someone’s backyard. That’s why I altered Gibbons’ book title, in my posting title. Technically, asparagus isn’t so much wild as it is feral. It’s a domesticated escapee, reverted back to Nature. You’ll most often find it along fences and around road signs, or any place a bird will perch and poop the seeds out. The plant has genders with only the female producing orange/red berries which kinda look like a decorated Christmas tree as Ranger pointed out. As the saying goes, “the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree”. Apparently neither do the birds who poop out the seeds. If you find a heavy concentration of asparagus on a particular road, you can be sure you’ll see a patch of it in someone’s garden nearby.
Last week Ranger and I gathered some berries from a plant just North of town. I popped them and separated out the seeds, about 4-6 in each berry. I’ve read that the female (berry bearing) plants are not worth keeping as they don’t bear edibles as well as the male plants. I’ve also heard that asparagus have a near 100 % germination rate, so we should have plenty of plants next Spring, though it’s recommended not to start harvesting for 2 – 3 years. The brilliant golden yellow of the Fall foliage will look great on Ranger’s balcony as he waits for the harvest though. He’s known as the Plant Man since his impressively gardened balcony faces the parking lot for the building. Everyone who lives in the building passes under his balcony to get in.
I’ll try growing them in containers as I really don’t have the real estate for the sprawling plants. If that doesn’t work, I’ve got some elderly neighbours with a piece of property just North of town who invited me to use it, understanding that it could be sold at any time. It was purchased strictly as an investment. However, they’ve had it for decades and have never done anything with it, so I suspect as long as their alive, it’ll just sit there. It’s certainly not a gorgeous piece of parkland, but it’s close enough to plant asparagus in, and any other “forageables” I’d like to have nearby.
So, I guess it’s all over now but the waiting. Come next Spring, we’ll chow down on fresh morels, and then asparagus, then the rasp, black, straw, goose, elder, & chokecherry, berries for the remainder of the Summer. I guess all I’ve got left this year are the wild grapes. We just had our first frost last night, so they’re ready for the picking. After that I guess it’s all done for the season, and it’s all over but the freezin’.
Then again, there was that Hazelnut Ranger found on a No Exit in the Regional Rds 18 – 15 block. As well, the wife and I found those hickory nuts just North of …
October 10/2015 – Yeah, the seeds germinated something crazy, but the problem seems not to be germination, but getting them to survive the next winter. I lost them all. Oh well, plan “B” – I’ll gather more seeds this week and plant them on my neighbours property. We’ll see how that goes.