Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is an herbaceous, flowering perennial plant grown as a spring vegetable. It reaches heights of 3 to 5 feet, and has stout stems with plentifully-branched, feathery foliage. Only young asparagus shoots are commonly eaten because when the buds start to open ("ferning out"), the shoots quickly turn woody.
Tremendous patience is a must when raising asparagus in home gardens! Having tender shoots for the table requires more than a year of plant maturity.
Asparagus is low in calories and very low in sodium, and 93% of its composition is simply water. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, beta-carotene, along with other vitamins and minerals.
Asparagus shoots are prepared and served in a number of ways, one being as a vegetable side dish after it is steamed or boiled then topped with butter. In Asian-style cooking, asparagus is often stir-fried to be served alone or in dishes containing chicken, shrimp, or beef. At backyard barbeques, it may be quickly grilled over charcoal or hardwood embers. Asparagus is sometimes used as an ingredient in stew and soup recipes, and it can be pickled (marinated) and stored for several years.
HELPFUL GARDENING TIP: Asparagus and tomatoes are beneficial companion plants for each other. The tomato plant repels asparagus beetles, while asparagus can repel some harmful root nematodes that affect tomato plants.