Specialty Crop Profile: Asparagus
Asparagus, (Asparagus officinalis), is a hardy perennial vegetable belonging to the Lily Family. It is grown for its succulent early spring vegetative shoots that originate from an underground crown (Figure 1). Nutritionally, asparagus is almost 92 percent water, and it provides fairly high amounts of carbohydrates, vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, and phosphorus. A native of coastal Europe, asparagus has naturalized over much of the eastern United States. With the assistance of man and birds that have spread the seeds, asparagus can be found in gardens, old homesteads, fencerows, roadsides, and railroad right of ways across the state. It is well adapted to most of Virginia, preferring well-drained loam soils and easily tolerating winter cold and summer heat. Asparagus is long lived, and a well-managed planting can last 10 to 15 years. For those considering it as a potential crop, good planning and soil preparation are essential for long-term success.