Many of us think of asparagus as the short stalks from the grocery story, delicious or awful-tasting,
depending on who you ask. But these young stalks are babies. They are harvested after the plants become
well-established, leaving behind some to grow to maturity and continue to the next
season. Asparagus is a native of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia.
Plants: 3-5' (1-1.5 m) tall. Erect stems branch extensively
into progressively finer branches and feathery “leaves,” which are themselves fine stems.
Leaves: Foliage is delicate-looking
and resembles soft needles at close range.
Flowers: Flowers are small and bell-shaped, and greenish
white to yellowish.
Fruits: Red-orange berries are about ⅛-⅜" (6-10 mm) in diameter.
They are not edible.
Edibility: Young shoots are delicious. Don't eat the berries though.
There is a recipe for cooking asparagus in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’s third century AD De re coquinaria, Book III. It was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter.