Asparagus has been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years. It is believed to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor and was reportedly cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The cultivation of asparagus in Europe dates back to around the 15th century, and it was brought to the Americas by European colonists in the 16th century. While the exact date for the introduction of asparagus to this country is not known, it is a crop with a long and rich history.
We have picked our 5 most popular asparagus varieties at Jung Seed Co to share a little bit of their history, characteristics, and benefits of growing them.
Jersey Knight Hybrid Asparagus
The Jersey Knight Hybrid Asparagus was developed in the 1980s by researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA. It was bred by crossing two different varieties of asparagus, the ‘Jersey Giant’ and the classic heirloom ‘Mary Washington’. The goal of the breeding program was to create a male variety of asparagus that produced more vigorous spears without producing all the annoying seeds.
It is a popular and versatile variety of asparagus that is known for its high yield, disease resistance, and delicious spears. Whether you are a commercial grower or a home gardener, this variety of asparagus is definitely worth considering if you are looking for a productive and rewarding crop.
Its spears are thick, yet tender and sweet, with a slightly nutty flavor. This makes them a popular choice for home gardeners and chefs alike, who appreciate the high quality of the asparagus and its versatility in the kitchen.
As with all the ‘Jersey’ asparagus hybrids, their main benefit is due to them being male plants, which means they will not produce seeds that can self-sow. Male plants do not expend unnecessary energy producing seeds, so they have more energy directed towards producing strong, healthy spears.
Another benefit of the ‘Jersey Knight’ Hybrid asparagus is its disease resistance. Asparagus plants can be susceptible to a number of diseases, including Fusarium crown rot and rust, which can cause significant damage to the plants and reduce yields. The ‘Jersey Knight’ Hybrid asparagus has been bred with resistance to these and other diseases, which can reduce the need for pesticides.
Jersey Supreme Asparagus
The Jersey Supreme Asparagus was developed by Dr. Martha Mutschler-Chu at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, in New Jersey, United States. The variety was introduced in 2002 after over a decade of research and development, and it quickly became popular due to its excellent flavor and high-yield potential.
One of the distinguishing features of ‘Jersey Supreme’ asparagus is its size. This variety is known for producing thick, uniform stalks that can grow up to 10 inches tall. The color of the stalks is typically green or greenish-purple, with a slightly curved shape that makes them easy to harvest. The heads of the asparagus are tight and compact, with a distinctive pointed tip.
The flavor of ‘Jersey Supreme’ asparagus is another factor that sets it apart from other varieties. The stalks are tender and succulent, with a sweeter yet nutty taste. This flavor is due to the higher sugar content of the asparagus, which develops as the plant matures. In addition to its delicious taste, ‘Jersey Supreme’ asparagus is a good source of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate and fiber.
‘Jersey Supreme’ also benefits from being a male selection. Male asparagus plants produce better and stronger spears than female plants.
One of the advantages of growing ‘Jersey Supreme’ asparagus is its adaptability. This variety is well-suited to a range of growing conditions, including both warm and cool climates. It is also resistant to many common diseases and pests, which makes it a relatively low-maintenance crop for farmers and home gardeners alike.
Mary Washington Asparagus
Mary Washington Asparagus was developed by Harrison E. Cummins, a horticulturist at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in the United States. The variety was first introduced in 1919, making it over 100 years old. It quickly became popular due to its high yield, tender and tasty spears, and resistance to rust disease.
One of the most notable features of Mary Washington asparagus is its thick, meaty spears. Unlike some other varieties of asparagus, which can be thin and delicate, this asparagus is substantial and can hold up well in a variety of dishes. Additionally, the flavor of Mary Washington asparagus is mild and sweet, with a slightly nutty undertone.
People often choose to grow Mary Washington asparagus because of its hardiness and adaptability. This variety is a durable and cold-tolerant variety with a long-standing appeal.
Additionally, Mary Washington asparagus is inherently resistant to many common pests and diseases, making it a relatively low-maintenance option for home gardeners.
Millennium Hybrid Asparagus
Millennium Hybrid Asparagus was developed in the 1990s by Dr. David Wolyn, a plant breeder at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. This cultivar was developed through a rigorous selection process that involved crossing several varieties of asparagus to produce a hybrid that combined the best qualities of each parent.
The ‘Millennium’ Hybrid asparagus is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of climates and soils. It is a highly productive variety, capable of producing up to twice as much asparagus as other cultivars. The shoots are thick and meaty, with a tender texture and a delicious, slightly sweet flavor.
One of the most notable qualities of the Millennium Hybrid Asparagus is its resistance to disease and pests. This resistance makes it a highly desirable choice for commercial growers who want to reduce their use of pesticides and other chemical treatments.
Additionally, the Millennium Hybrid Asparagus has a long harvest season, which extends from early spring to late summer, providing growers with a steady supply of asparagus for several months.
For home gardeners, the Millennium Hybrid Asparagus is an excellent choice because it requires minimal maintenance. It is a perennial plant that can be planted once and will produce shoots for many years. The plant does not require frequent watering or fertilization, making it an easy-to-grow vegetable that is ideal for beginners.
Purple Sweet Asparagus
The Purple Sweet Asparagus, also known as Purple Passion Asparagus, is a relatively new variety of asparagus which was developed in the 1980s by a company called Bejo Seeds in the Netherlands. While traditional green asparagus is a common sight in grocery stores and farmer’s markets, purple asparagus is a rare find, and it’s often considered a gourmet vegetable.
The Purple Sweet Asparagus is a hybrid plant that was developed by crossing traditional green asparagus with a wild variety of asparagus native to Asia. This unique hybridization resulted in a plant with purple spears that are sweet and tender, unlike the slightly bitter taste of green asparagus.
One of the key benefits of Purple Sweet Asparagus is its impressive nutritional profile. It’s low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals, making it an excellent addition to any healthy diet. Purple asparagus contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as folate, potassium, and fiber. It also contains anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
If you’re looking to add a nutritious and delicious vegetable to your diet, growing asparagus is definitely worth considering. With its long growing season and minimal maintenance, asparagus is a rewarding crop that can provide you with fresh produce for years to come. Not only is asparagus packed with vitamins and minerals, but it’s also a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. So, whether you’re an experienced gardener or a novice, don’t hesitate to try asparagus. With a little patience and care, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of this amazing vegetable for many seasons to come!
Other Recommended Reading
- Asparagus: An Easy Growing Guide
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- Summer Vegetable Gardening: Common Problems & Solutions
- 4 Tips for Improving Garden Soil
- Garden Trends: Color of the Year 2023
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