Plant researchers have developed high-yielding asparagus hybrids with many traits that surpass the older open-pollinated varieties. Novice gardeners and professional growers alike will appreciate the benefits of the all-male Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight Hybrid Crowns.
Traditional asparagus varieties have male and female plants. Female plants produce spears but also produce seed when the plant is in the fern stage. The production of seed takes the plant's energy and nutrients, reducing the yield of the tasty spears. Also, the seeds fall to the ground and germinate, creating a weeding hassle in the garden.
The perennial asparagus plant can be grown in the same garden for 20+ years. The plant is prized for its flavorful and nutritious spears. The crown of the plant is the critical growth center. As each growing season progresses, the rhizomes develop buds that produce the spears for the following warm-weather months.
All-male asparagus varieties, like the Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight hybrids, are renowned for their heavy yields, producing 2 to 3 times the thick, tasty spears of traditional varieties. Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight are especially well suited for temperate and cool climates. Jersey Knight is even tolerant of hard freezes and can be grown in many parts of the U.S. to Zone 3.
Attractive, dark green spears with purple bracts are large, uniform, and succulent. These frost- hardy all-male Jersey hybrids are resistant to rust, Fusarium wilt, and crown and root rot.
If you've never experimented with the new all-male Jersey hybrid varieties, try planting a few each of Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight to see which ones do best in your soil, sunlight, temperature and moisture conditions.
Asparagus should be grown in either full or part sun and dry to average soil. Asparagus is best planted as one- or two-year-old bare root plants in early spring. First, make a trench about 8 inches deep in soil with good drainage. Add organic matter and a Triple Superphosphate Fertilizer to the bottom of the trench. Space plants about 18 inches apart in the row. Cover the crowns with soil and water moderately to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Gradually fill in the trench as the young plants grow. Asparagus roots will spread horizontally underground as the plant matures.
Do not harvest any asparagus spears the first year after planting. A light harvest can be made the second and third years. In subsequent years, the harvesting period should end by mid- to late June to allow for growth and plant nutrient storage.
Asparagus spears are considered a delicacy by many, coveted because of the delicate flavors, interesting textures, and versatility of preparations. Fresh spears can be boiled, broiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. Roasting imparts a caramelized exterior and the sweetest flavors.
Pickling asparagus allows it to be combined with a variety of seasonings to suit every palate, and the spears maintain a soft but consistent, firm texture, perfect as an appetizer or hors d'oeuvre. Asparagus can be frozen, canned, or pickled, and there are countless recipes on the Internet and in cookbooks for preserving your harvest's overstock. Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight are varieties especially well suited to home canners and those with a desire to enjoy the unique flavors and nutritional value of asparagus all winter long, because the produce is abundant, providing meals at harvest and long into the cold months.