Asparagus Types: 15 Asparagus Varieties To Grow in Your Garden
Are you thinking of adding some Asparagus to your garden this year? Did you know that there are actually 15 different types of Asparagus you can consider before you start planting? In this article, gardener Emma Braby looks at the different Asparagus varieties that you may want to consider before settling down to start planting in your garden.
Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that’s part of the perrenial flowering plant species. It is the young shoots of the plant that are used as a spring-time vegetable that we call asparagus. It’s used in many food dishes, and one of the easier vegetables to grow, especially for gardeners just starting out.
Once considered a delicacy and often still is, asparagus makes a tasty appetizer or side dish to most meals. It’s relatively easy to grow too, which appeals to gardeners both new and experienced.
With so many types of asparagus to grow, you have a wide selection to choose from. Some are suited to better climates, and some are easier to grow or get hold of. And some have subtle taste differences that appeal to different tastebuds. Let’s take a look at the diverse types of this amazing plant.
- 1 Plant History
- 2 Plant Overview
- 3 15 Types of Asparagus
- 3.1 Green Asparagus
- 3.2 White Asparagus
- 3.3 Purple Asparagus
- 3.4 Wild Asparagus
- 3.5 Apollo Asparagus
- 3.6 Atlas Asparagus
- 3.7 Jersey Series Asparagus
- 3.8 Precoce D’Argenteuil Asparagus
- 3.9 Mary Washington Asparagus
- 3.10 Purple Passion Asparagus
- 3.11 UC 157 Asparagus
- 3.12 Viking KB3 Asparagus
- 3.13 African Asparagus Fern
- 4 Final Thoughts
Asparagus has long been considered a delicacy across the globe. So long that artifacts dating back to 3000 B.C are illustrated with asparagus bunches. Famous greek doctors such as Hippocrates and Dioscorides used it in medicinal remedies to treat health problems. Legend has it that Ceasar Augustus organized elite military units to grow and deliver his favorite vegetables for him.
Asparagus belongs to the Asparagaceae family. The Asparagaceae family comprises about 153 genera and approximately 2,500 flowering plants, including the hyacinth and lily of the valley. They are also distant relatives of the onion. The best soil type for them to grow in is deep, loose, light clay with plenty of organic matter. Or light sandy loams, which is an equal mixture of soil and silt.
It’s difficult to pinpoint where this plant originates from, but it was first seen across Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. It grows in places with mild temperatures and remains dormant during the colder months. Asparagus requires cold temperatures in the winter to develop properly. Several species are also grown as ornamental plants.
Asparagus plants are either male or female. Most gardeners plant male asparagus because it is easier to harvest, grows in larger quantities, and produces larger, more delicious spears. In the spring, small yellow flowers will be found on the plant. And during the fall, the plant will grow red berries, known as asparagus fruit. This is toxic to humans, so please do not eat this!
In 2018, the largest producers of asparagus were China, Peru, Mexico, Germany, and Thailand. Germany holds a yearly festival known as “Spargelzeit” to celebrate asparagus, particularly the white variety. Germans refer to it as “white gold.” Stockton, California, also holds an annual festival known as the Stockton Festival. It began in 1985, and it is one of the grandest in the world.
15 Types of Asparagus
There are many different varieties, all with various colors, tastes, textures, and hardiness. There are four basic types, which are green, white, purple, and wild. The rest of the varieties are specialty asparagus types which fall into one of the four basic types.
Some varieties of asparagus plants can live up to 30 years, making them a top choice for the veggie garden. Some of them are used just for their aesthetics and should never be consumed because of their toxicity. So, let’s take a look at the each type.
This is the most common type found in veggie patches and grocery stores across the world. Making it one of the cheapest varieties around. It is bright green and becomes even brighter when cooked. When the asparagus stalks breach the soil, they are exposed to the sun. This produces chlorophyll, which gives it its green color.
Green asparagus is one of the most nutritious types available. It contains vitamins B and C, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, and folic acid, to name just a few essential nutrients. Plus, it is richer in fiber. The higher fiber content can make it tougher, but the fiber strands are less obvious if you opt for the thicker stalks.
White asparagus is essentially the same as green asparagus, but the harvesting process is different. Farmers pile a thicker layer of soil over the crowns or cover the crops with black plastic. They are picked before they break the surface of the soil. This prevents them from interacting with the sun, avoiding the green chlorophyll color. It can be woodier and tougher than other varieties, so it’s best to peel it before cooking it.
The additional attention required to grow it, and a limited harvesting period, means white asparagus is much more expensive than green asparagus. Many people consider white asparagus sweeter than the green variety, which is another reason people are willing to pay a premium for it. It is rarer in America than in Europe, where it is considered a delicacy. It is usually sold in specialty stores or canned.
Purple asparagus is different from other types, and not just because it is purple. It also contains a higher amount of anthocyanins, an antioxidant that gives it its purple color. Anthocyanins are also found in berries and other similarly colored, rich pigmented foods, and they have a variety of health benefits too. It is also a very tender variety due to the lower fiber count.
Purple asparagus is slightly nuttier in taste and sweeter than the green variety. Mainly because it contains around 20% more sugar. It was first developed in Italy, specifically the Albenga region. When cooked, it turns green. It’s more commonly found in specialty stores or farmers’ markets.
The name of this asparagus variety gives away where it can be found, and that is in the wild. If you know where to look, it’s easy to find, just don’t share the location with too many people. Wild asparagus can be found in every state in the country. But it is more commonly found near the coast, on dunes and cliffs, and in areas with increased moisture.
Wild asparagus is much longer and thinner than its cultivated cousins. The wild asparagus bush typically grows to three feet in length. The thorns are soft, meaning you shouldn’t have to wear gloves when picking them. Like all asparagus, you should pick it in early spring. It has a more delicate taste. Although it looks very similar to green asparagus, don’t eat it if you aren’t 100% sure that it is wild asparagus.
The Apollo asparagus is a green asparagus variety. It is versatile in that it grows well in both chilly and warm conditions. It is very resistant to disease and pests such as fusarium and rust. This variety yields a large crop and is usually harvested earlier than other types of asparagus. It is dark green in color, and it has a smooth, attractive appearance. Some stalks have a tinge of purple on the tips. Apollo asparagus freezes well, meaning you can stock up well for the rest of the year.
The Atlas asparagus also does well in chilly and hot climates and does best from 45ᵒ to 85ᵒ Fahrenheit. Just as long as it receives six hours of sunlight every day. It also tolerates light and hard frost as well as drought. Atlas asparagus is resistant to most diseases, with a high tolerance to fusarium. It is very sturdy, dark green in color, with a purple tinge on the tips.
Jersey Series Asparagus
There are three types of asparagus in the Jersey Series: the Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, and Jersey Supreme. The Jersey series is a hybrid variety consisting of all male plants.
The Jersey Giant usually grows between seven and nine inches long. It has a thick stalk that gives it a very meaty and more intense taste than other types, which is why it is called the Jersey Giant. It grows well in most climates but typically does better in zones 4 to 6. They mature in late spring, and they produce plenty of stalks for years and years.
The Jersey Knight is another sturdy asparagus variety, and it is resistant to many types of diseases. Including fusarium, crown rot, rust, and many more, making it a hardy variety. It grows well in most climates, including colder ones, but it does best in zones 3 to 10. The Jersey Knight variety is known for being exceptionally high in vitamins A, B6, and C.
The Jersey Supreme is the newest of the Jersey Series. It is very resistant to disease, particularly rust and fusarium. This variety is an excellent option if your soil is sandy or at least has some sand in it. The ideal zones for this variety are zones 3 to 8. It produces earlier than the Jersey Giant or the Jersey Knight, making it a great choice if you cannot wait for other varieties. It is a uniform variety creating more attractive stalks, and it produces more stalks the older it gets.
Precoce D’Argenteuil Asparagus
The Precoce D’Argenteuil originated from Europe, where it is very popular. Part of its name roughly translates to “early,” making it a top option for impatient asparagus lovers. This is an heirloom variety that has a very sweet taste. It is very light green in color, with hints of pale pink throughout the stalk. The tips are rosy pink, too, making it very attractive. It is a quick bloomer and begins to thrive in its second year. This variety prefers full sun and does best in zones 5 to 8.
Mary Washington Asparagus
The Mary Washington variety is one of the most popular types in America and has been for over one hundred years. It is an heirloom variety that produces crops for many years. It does best in zones 3 to 8. This asparagus prefers full or partial sun to get the best yield. The stalks are deep green with light purple tips. The long stalks are uniform, and the attractive foliage is feathery and green in color.
Purple Passion Asparagus
As you might expect, the Purple Passion variety is purple in color, and it becomes lighter as you cook it. For this reason, it is much more tender and sweeter in taste, thanks to the higher sugar content. It is considered a connoisseur variety, making it rarer to find in stores compared to its green cousins. It freezes well, cooks well, and is a popular option for salads. This type does best in zones 3 to 8.
UC 157 Asparagus
This hybrid type of asparagus was developed in 1978 with both male and female plants. It produces an exceptionally high yield, making it one of America’s most viable and popular varieties. This variety does best in warmer climates but grows well in all growing zones. It is very resistant to most diseases to affect asparagus. It is pale green in color and produces uniform stalks.
Viking KB3 Asparagus
This variety is a type of Mary Washington, and it is one of the newest hybrid asparagus types. It is a sturdy variety that produces many stalks, making it another popular commercial option. This variety should be harvested once the stalks are skinny, and it typically grows to 10 inches in length. It can also be harvested early and has a delicious, meaty flavor. It is a versatile variety, and it can grow in most zones. This variety consists of both male and female
African Asparagus Fern
The asparagus fern is closely related to the asparagus, and it is prized for its beautiful lacy fern-like foliage. It is also known as bridal creeper. The early plant grows tips, which then develop into the foliage. It should not be consumed as it is ornamental rather than edible. The sap, known as sapogenin, is toxic to animals, and prolonged exposure can cause skin irritation.
However, it has many uses in the garden and does well as an indoor plant. Plus, it is excellent for planting in places where most other plants won’t grow to add a splash of color and texture to your garden. It is easy to grow. Just stick to the other varieties when it comes to mealtime.
There are many types of asparagus to choose from. With various colors, thickness, tastes, and harvest times, you are spoilt for choice. Some do better in particular zones, which might make one option better for you and your location. Others grow well wherever you are. And thankfully, once you have established your asparagus patch, they are all relatively easy to care for and keep producing for years to come.
Asparagus might only be in season for a few weeks of the year, but a few varieties freeze well. So if you find yourself pining for this delicate spring vegetable all year round, why not create a vast asparagus patch and freeze numerous batches for your yearly pleasure.