Wait until the third year after planting crowns to harvest asparagus. For the first harvest, limit your picking to no longer than 1 month. The plants are still expanding their root and storage systems, and excessive removal of spears will weaken the plants. In following years, extend the harvest but stop when spears become less than 1/2 inch in diameter.

Harvest spears 5 to 8 inches in length by cutting or snapping them off. To cut a spear, run a knife under the ground where the spear emerges. Since the cut will be below the point of fiber development, it will still be necessary to snap the stem be- ■ ■ .' '■

fore cooking. Cutting may damage some spear tips that have not emerged.

ticulturists recommend snapping. To snap a spear, bend it from the top toward the ground. The spear will break at the point where it is free of fiber. Spear diameter is not related to tenderness. Asparagus spears are good fresh, frozen, or canned.

Use Storage Method 1. Packing the stem ends in moist toweling or resting the ends in a little water will restore or maintain freshness. Asparagus is still growing when harvested, so spears must be placed in an upright position to keep them from growing crooked. Average storage life is 1 to 3 weeks.

Nutrition note: 1/2 cup cooked asparagus contains 22 calories and 1.4 grams of fiber. Asparagus is an excellent source of folate (33% DV) and a good source of vitamins C (16% DV) and A (10% DV). Color = green, purple.

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