Asparagus goes wonderfully with any meal, and it’s excellent fat-burning food. Overeating asparagus doesn’t cause any major health issues other than a gaseous stomach (maybe).
What’s interesting is that asparagus is a dioecious vegetable, which means it grows two sexes with the female asparagus having the ability to produce seeds.
But, should you let asparagus go to seed at all? In this article, we will explore the life cycle of asparagus plants and whether asparagus berries are desirable for healthy plant growth.
Asparagus Life Cycle
Asparagus can be eaten raw, cooked with meals, and even used in medicines. It has a unique and mild flavor, and it’s hard to resist tasting the first few spears.
However, the idea is to be patient for a couple of years. Your plants will grow ferns and get strong before they are ready to produce a large yield.. The asparagus bed will repay you in the long run, producing for a good 20 and even 30 years.
The lifecycle of asparagus starts from a seed, but you can also get one-year-old plants known as the crowns if you don’t want to remove weeds from the seeds.
After a week of planting, you will see small spears emerging from the plant, but don’t harvest them yet. Leave the plants to encourage strong root formation and healthy growth, which will result in higher yields a few seasons later.
During the second season, harvest the spears for one to two months. Then, after the second year, you can collect them for two to three months.
You can trace the growth of asparagus through the changing seasons. The young edible spears appear in early spring, and in summer, the plants get tall and grow ferns.
Near autumn, they have strengthened their root system and functions. In winter, they turn brown and dry so you can cut the plant to the ground to encourage the inactive period.
Asparagus plants grow succulent and delicious asparagus shoots that are ready to harvest in each spring. Actively cutting the plants can ensure healthy growth till the next spring.
The female ferny plants produce red seeds or asparagus berries in the fall season. Should you let asparagus go to seed, the seeds will drop on the ground and produce new plants.
Since Asparagus is a dioecious plant, it has both male and female genders. The male hybrid asparagus, such as Jersey Knight, has all males.
These plants are generally considered more robust with larger spears as they don’t have to grow and nourish weed seedlings.
On the other hand, female plants produce more spears, but they are smaller in size. This way, male plants have some advantage over their female counterparts.
When female asparagus flowers are fertilized, they turn into berries. If your asparagus is going to seed and produce bright red berries at the end of the season, you have some females in there.
Male flowers do not change into berries, except very rarely when male hermaphrodites self-pollinate.
All male hybrid asparagus produces larger yields than female varieties. The female plants are a bit weaker as they produce weed seedlings that quickly cover the field.
You can apply mulch around the plant to reduce weed growth and keep soil moisture.
Should You Let Asparagus Go to Seed?
Near the harvest season, the asparagus plants start producing feathery leaves. Till early fall, you will see pee-like green berries starting to appear on the fronds.
As fall passes by, the berries slowly ripen to a bright red. But, the question arises: Should you let asparagus go to seed?
Since you will only have the leaf buds of asparagus on your plate, you don’t have to let the plant go to seed. The ferns with berries tend to bend towards the ground and touch the wet soil, which can spread a fungal disease in the plants.
Besides, young seedlings are also hardly productive, and instead, they produce weeds in the field. Due to these reasons, many horticulturalists dig up the female plants along with the crowns from the beds before the berries ripen.
Otherwise, there is no way you can stop the plants from going to seed, and gardeners want all male crops for best edible yields.
Nevertheless, if you want to produce your own asparagus and encourage your crop to spread, you will need female plants.
Saving Asparagus Seeds
If you have decided to keep the female asparagus, why not save the seeds?
When the asparagus berries turn bright red, they are ready to pick. However, asparagus berries are not edible at all. In fact, they aren’t actually ‘berries’, either.
They are just seed pods with each berry holding three to four seeds inside. Eating a handful of berries can be harmful to your body and cause digestive problems.
Harvest Asparagus Berries
When asparagus ferns begin to bend down, the berries are ready to be harvested. If you want to grow new plants from the seeds, pick the berries that are bright red.
Then, dry them thoroughly by placing them in a tray with parchment paper for about a week under the sun. Do not use tissue papers, or the seeds will stick to it.
Next, open up the berries to remove the seeds. If the pods are too hard, leave them for another hour in sunlight until they are soft enough.
Once you have separated the seeds from the pods, rinse them thoroughly with water to remove any pulp.
Plant Asparagus Seeds
Resowing asparagus seeds is a great way to extend the crop at your desired place. Before you sow the seeds, soak them in lukewarm water for a few hours to help them germinate, but it’s not a strict rule.
To start sowing, dig the soil with your finger without disturbing the roots of other plants. You can sow all the seeds in one go or save half of them for sowing in spring.
Asparagus seeds can take two to eight weeks to sprout, which is why it needs to be planted early in spring.
Store Asparagus Seeds
You can sow the seeds right after washing, or store them to plant in springtime. To store the seeds, place them in a plastic bag or jar and put it in a cool and dry place like a refrigerator.
You want to keep them away from moisture as much as possible. It would be best if you avoid putting them in a drawer or kitchen shelf.
For your convenience, label each bag or jar with the date of harvest and seed type.
All in all, while the female asparagus plants produce more spears, they are shorter than their male counterparts. That is because females spend more energy on seed production. These seeds drop to make new plants that can overcrowd the field.
However, you can always collect the seeds and plant them in your desired spot, at the right time.
Alternatively, you can stop your asparagus from going to seed, and only keep the male plants that produce higher yields.
If you are unsure of your plants’ sex, wait for them to produce flowers and then choose the ones you want to keep.