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Monday, October 23, 2017

Most Asparagus Varieties Grow Well in the Desert

Asparagus used to be marketed only if the spirit diameter was pencil -sized or larger. Now smaller diameter asparagus is popular.
Q. Do you have a recommended type or brand of asparagus that does well here in Southern Nevada?  I read your blog and you noted the purple varieties are "sweeter”, but do they grow as well as other types?
Asparagus is allowed to grow to its full height after harvest season is over
A. Yes, I do have recommendations on varieties of asparagus for the Las Vegas Valley climate. I grew 17 different varieties of asparagus for many years at the University research and demonstration orchard in North Las Vegas. The varieties included a few older European types, some old heritage types, varieties released from Rutgers University, University of California releases and a couple of commercial purple varieties.
Purple asparagus called Purple Passion
            All varieties grew well but some produced higher yields, some produced longer, good quality spears for a longer time when it started getting hot. Chefs who evaluated these varieties said different varieties had slightly different flavor profiles and could be paired with different foods.
Asparagus in emerging from seed the 2nd year after planting
            Generally speaking, University of California releases such as UC 157 give higher yields and produce quality spears for a longer period of time when it got hot than varieties such as Jersey Supreme and Jersey Knight, heirloom types such as Mary Washington and European varieties.
Female asparagus plants can be rolled out or eliminated because they drop seeds in the growing beds.
            Asparagus harvest can begin as early as mid-January in Las Vegas Valley and harvesting stops about 8 to 10+ weeks later when new spears are smaller than pencil diameter. The remainder of the year asparagus is not harvested but grown to its full height, between 5 and 6 feet, to rebuild itself for next year’s spring production. This is when fertilizer is applied, plants are inspected for insects and diseases and low yielding, female plants are removed.
Asparagus bundled in the cooler post harvest
            Purple varieties, such as Purple Passion, are unique and grow well in the desert but don’t yield as well as green improved varieties like UC 157. Purple spears are sweeter. The purple color disappears when they are cooked. In my experience, purple varieties are not as productive for the same number of years as green varieties.
            Any of the green varieties can be used to produce “white asparagus”.
            Asparagus plants are either male or female. Male asparagus plants produce more spears than female asparagus plants. Asparagus can be started from seed, not just from crowns, but the female plants should be “rogued out”or eliminated during the first couple of years if your focus is on higher yields.
            I have written an asparagus production guide for Southern Nevada and will post it on my blog in the next couple of weeks.

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