In the Garden: planting octopi

Last month my order from Stark’s Nursery arrived, and the box was almost as big as me!  It contained three bare root fruit trees, an apple, peach, and plum, and twenty asparagus plants.

I was delighted!

We planted the three trees that very Sunday, and I took care of the asparagus on Monday.   I must confess that planting asparagus is like trying to plant an octopus!  Or in this case twenty octopi!  It was very hard work, and Violet helped, but I was tired!

PROCEDURE:

First you dig the hole, then mound up the dirt in the center and place your octopus over the mound like this.

So what’s so hard about that you ask?

Let me back up, then.  Well, for starters I had to entirely amend that clay soil to make it permeable.  Asparagus puts down a very deep root system, some say six feet, others say up to ten feet, and they like good drainage.  Luckily, our clay seems to drain well, but I wanted to give it at least a two foot head start with the amendments.  I had the advantage with the raised bed, but that still meant going down into the base soil for that extra foot.

The next step was getting the tentacles and crown to lay flat on the little hills while I back-filled each hole.  The crowns need to be two to three inches under the soil with no air pockets underneath.   I spread them out, placing the long, rubbery roots down into the soil.  I pressed the crown down and  PoP!  They spring right back up!  I finally learned to just weight them down by placing several large handfuls of soil on the center of the plant.

Now I had to dig, mound, spread roots, hold down crowns and back-fill nineteen more times.

Only three more to go!

The plants are in and watered.  Now I wait.  You see, asparagus takes about three years to mature to a size where you can harvest from the plants.  This is an investment of preparation, care, and time.  However, if you enjoy asparagus, and we do, it is definitely worth the effort, because an asparagus bed will last for years!

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My favorite way to eat asparagus is grilled.  You can do this outside on the barbecue, or in your oven using the broiler.

GRILLING ASPARAGUS:

You will need:

  1. One bunch of asparagus
  2. Olive oil
  3. Kosher salt

Preparation:

  1. Rinse asparagus and drain well
  2. Lightly coat with olive oil and place on foil lined grill if using the broiler, or directly onto a grilling tray if using the barbecue
  3. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt

This method cooks relatively fast so stay close by.  When the one side has turned a darker green and looks a bit wrinkled (not too much!) turn the asparagus and finish the other side.  Serve immediately.

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NOTE:  Some people, Like the Barefoot Contessa like theirs served with a delightful Parmesan sauce and lemon!  Please click on her name above to be taken to her inspired recipe for this delicious vegetable!

UPDATE:

I just found this lovely article that tells all on Asparagus, its history, uses, nutrition and more.  For instance, did you know this power packed vegetable is from the lily family?  You might like to take a look here at Nutrition and You.

Lynda’s Summer Garden Pasta Salad

Been enjoying my tomatoes this week!  Here’s a fun summer garden recipe for you!  Sorry, I have no pictures…

WE ATE IT ALL UP!

However, I’m sure you can imagine how beautiful it looks!

LYNDA’S SUMMER GARDEN PASTA SALAD  (all amounts are approximate)

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups pasta* (dry measure)
1 small zucchini grated
1/4 cup red or green pepper – diced
1/4 cup sweet Vidalia or red onion – diced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic – minced
1 cup sweet one hundred cherry tomatoes – cut in half (or any small, sweet, salad tomatoes)
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Your favorite vinegar and oil salad dressing.  Add enough to moisten, and if needed, add more before serving.  (I used Newman’s Balsamic Vinaigrette)

METHOD

While salted pasta water is coming to a boil, grate zucchini, mince onions and garlic, and halve tomatoes.

Prepare the pasta according to bag directions and cook until al dente.  Remove to colander rinse and drain.  Place in bowl and mix in the tablespoon of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking.

Add remaining ingredients and mix gently to incorporate.  Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour to allow flavors to meld.

ENJOY!

NOTES:

* For pasta choices you might like ziti, fusilli, spiral or bow tie as these hold onto the juices and dressing nicely!

This salad is easy, forgiving, and open to many variations in fresh vegetable choices.  Other vegetables I have tried are peas, corn, celery, carrot, etc.

You might like to grate some hard cheese, into the salad before serving.  Romano?  Parmesan?  ???

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DISCLAIMER:  This is my recipe, and I am sure that variations abound.  If you think it is yours, then all I can say is, “Great minds think alike.”

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Do you have a favorite summer salad recipe?  Feel free to share with us!