Please click on this link Stalking the Feral Asparagus for an explanation of where this all started.
I’m frickin’ pissed. And I don’t mean in the pleasant, Saturday afternoon drinking cold ones on the back deck with trusted friends laughing about the fun we had the Summer before, while sitting on the back deck having cold ones with … way.
I mean the kinda pissed where you spend weeks recording the locations of 45 wild asparagus patches last October, only to find WE WEREN’T THE FIRST ONES TO THINK OF THIS IN NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY !!! I mean come on eh ?! Ranger and I recorded 45 individual patches of asparagus over a few weeks last Fall only to find every one of them … shall we call it … “pre-harvested” ?
Last Wednesday I picked up Ranger and we started with our usual “Well, what shall we do today ?” cruise. I suggested we take a beach walk to look for suitable driftwood walking sticks. Ranger was OK with that so I turned the wheel to the South. As we approached the commuter parking lot Ranger says “Heay let’s take another look for asparagus in the field behind the lot”. We’d checked the week before and had been checking for weeks without success. However, as Ranger pointed out, we’d seen roadside market signs claiming to have fresh asparagus. We searched the field to no advantage until Ranger shouted something to me with his head damn-near buried in the ground. I ran over to him, and he pointed out a thumb sized stump sticking out of the ground. Once we saw one, the rest were easy to spot. We grabbed 4 big spears and I said “OK, change in plans. We’re going asparagus hunting !” I suggested we swing by my Home to get the list of locations we’d recorded last Fall. Once I had the list (and suitably impressed the wife with our booty thus far), we merrily headed off to our fortunes.
Well, long story – short, somebody (or many bodies) had beat us by a few days or more. We saw everything from stalks snapped off at ground level, to 3 foot tall stalks with no heads on them, to “8 foot tall trees” at one memorable location. At least, our claim-jumpers had missed a few and we gathered whatever we could find. It was a rag-tag collection to be sure. Some stalks were 1.5 inches in diameter and 4 inches long, while others were 18 inches long and skinny as a pinky, and some even had leaves unfolding. No one in their right mind would’ve bought those at a grocery store. Everybody knows asparagus gotta be slim and uniform to be tender, right ? Another minor problem with asparagus is how it prefers identical growing conditions to poison ivy. I can’t believe I didn’t get any on me as I had to wade through a sea of it, to get to a few patches. Fortunately it was a chilly morning so I’d worn long pants.
In an effort to climb a steep (poison ivy free for a change) embankment, I grabbed a sumac branch and used it to pull myself up the hill. As I precariously balanced myself above an 8 foot tumble back down into the ditch, I looked at my hand and saw :
I carefully backed down the bank, releasing the branch as carefully as I could. It constantly amazes me how much you can see, experience, and learn just by taking a close and careful look around yourself. Mind you, there were no harvestable spears up there after all.
Ranger and I were shocked at how, even the most remote locations and skimpiest patches, had been picked over. Here I thought I’d discovered a thrilling new forgeable, only to find we had to stand in line to get at them. As disappointing as the day’s haul was, we still gathered enough for a coupla night’s feeds.
And that’s all it took. I’ve never tasted store-bought asparagus spears as tender and sweet. They were so far above the commercially available that I’ve added wild asparagus to the list of “unusually terrific forageables” right along with morels (whose season SUCKED this year, by the way), and the berries (black, rasp, goose, and elder). We even saved the stems for the second night. I peeled the really thick ones, and they were still delicious.
Last Fall I collected seeds from a female plant and planted them in pots which I plunged into the composter for the Winter. What … you didn’t know asparagus has separate female and male plants ? Then you didn’t read “Stalking the Feral Asparagus” like I asked ya to didja ? Anyway, this is what they look like this Spring :
Don’t know what I’m gonna do with them, but they’re doing fine for now. It’ll be years before I could harvest them. Maybe I’ll plant them in a spot where only Ranger and I can get at them. Yeah, I like that idea.
Addendum (four days after completing the above article) – The wife and I did what I assumed would be futile foraging on the way Home this afternoon and scored about three pounds of asparagus. There was all kinds of it coming up around almost fully matured fronds sprouting up from known patches that Ranger and I searched only days ago. I understand you can harvest asparagus for a few months to come yet, so I guess we’ll be enjoying a light feed every few days for awhile. The trick is to identify mature plants rising over the grass along the roadside, and carefully search around its base for spears.