When you grow asparagus, you may have visions of the type of asparagus that comes from the shops – nice and fat, with a good head and a sturdy body. Homestead grown asparagus doesn’t always look like that, however!
If you have been scratching your head and wondering “why is my asparagus so skinny?” then you’ve come to the right place – we are here to answer all of your questions.
What You'll Learn Today
How To Grow Thick Asparagus
Asparagus is a naturally slender plant, that puts out long, thin spears that are great for throwing into just about any dish you can think of that doesn’t need a lot of cooking.
If you want to grow thicker asparagus, you will need to adapt your growing conditions. White asparagus naturally grows thicker than its green counterpart, as the sunlight is restricted.
In order to grow thicker asparagus, you will need to cultivate the older stems and encourage them to age and grow bigger than their slim counterparts.
Another good tip for strong, healthy, fat stems is to ensure that the plant is getting enough nutrients. Asparagus likes to be kept well fertilized, so make sure you are giving it a good feed.
New asparagus plants should not be harvested for the first 3 years, to give the plant a chance to really build itself up. If you are harvesting too soon, you will notice much thinner spears.
Conversely, an older asparagus crown will start to drop off its production and start to show more slender stems – it will need to be divided, or even replaced, if it is an old plant that has started producing thin spears.
How To Encourage Thicker Asparagus
Keeping your asparagus plant happy is the key to good, thick, strong spears. It needs to be fed, kept warm, well watered – and deep enough in the soil. If your spears are too slim then you may need to reconsider your growing conditions.
Traditionally, asparagus crowns have been planted deep into the soil, and there is a good reason for this. If they are not well buried in a good layer of muck and covered in soil, they will not thrive.
These days, asparagus beds are safe from the tilling and harvesting that used to be the reason for planting them so deeply – however, they still do best in a deep soil setting.
Ensure that, when you plant your crowns, only the tips of the spears are poking out, as if they are not deep enough they simply won’t produce those fat spears that we all love so much.
Why Is My Asparagus So Skinny
If you are consistently harvesting thin asparagus, with no larger thicker spears among them, then you may have a problem with the care of your plants. Asparagus needs to have a strong crown in order to make thick shoots. Here are few reasons:
1. Too Young
With a newly established asparagus bed, you will need to leave the plants well alone for the first three years, and not take any harvest from them at all to allow them to develop strong and healthy.
2. Too Old
Asparagus crowns that are over 10 years old will not produce optimally; they will need to be replaced, or at least divided to allow fresh new growth of strong shoots.
3. Not Enough Feed
Asparagus is a heavy feeder, and will need plenty of good quality fertilizer in order to produce the best spears.
4. Depth Of Plant
Your plant may not be covered enough, as the crowns will gradually move up through the soil over the years. Make sure they are covered to a depth of 3-5 inches of soil.
5. Over Harvesting
After you have harvested your spears, you need to allow the tall, frondy sections that grow up from the crown well alone – they need to be left to turn yellow and collapse on their own, to allow your asparagus to regain its strength.
Here is a little video talking about skinny asparagus, and the reasons why it may be so slim, and what you can do about it:
Recipes For Skinny Asparagus
Skinny asparagus is actually a great addition to any culinary endeavor. It can be added to things at the last minute, or used on its own for a delicious little vegetable kick in whatever dish you are making.
Thin asparagus lends itself very well to roasting – simply dab a little olive oil on the spears, grind on some pepper, and roast in the oven for around 7 minutes. You can shave some fresh Parmesan on at the end for a delicious addition!
You can change up the flavors of this dish, by adding a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar, a few chili flakes, or a squeeze of lemon juice.
Skinny asparagus works very well in a stir fry; simply remove the woody ends and throw in a handful at the end of the cooking time – this will ensure that your skinny spears still retain a delicious crunch.
Steaming also works very well for these slender spears; heat a pan of water and place a steaming basket or colander on the pan. Place the asparagus in the basket or colander, and steam for 3-5 minutes.
Skinny asparagus may seem a little unexciting, but actually it is a great, versatile vegetable that can enhance any dish you add it to – just make sure you don’t cook it for too long!