By Nina Andres
Why so much asparagus these days? There’s been asparagus in the boxes for the last month and we’ve all had asparagus recipes on the brain. The answer lies in this particular little plant’s growing season. The asparagus season in the Capay Valley area generally runs from early March through late May, depending on temperatures. Because the asparagus season is so short, it’s great to savor those flavorful spears while they’re here! If it stays cold later into spring, as it did this year, each frost damages the shoots, or “spears” and it’s usually 5 days before there are more good spears are ready to harvest. On the other hand as soon as the valley really starts to heat up, the asparagus plants stop producing.
Asparagus plants are perennials that can last for 15-20 years! The plants are usually grown from one-year-old crowns, which soon develop a permanent root system. In other words, it takes between two and three years from seed to beautiful, bountiful asparagus stalks.
The delicious asparagus you have enjoyed in your FarmShares in the last weeks has been grown by Jim and Deborah Durst. Attention to detail in all aspects of their operation has helped the Dursts build a solid reputation for flavor and quality. They also focus on creating a healthy work environment for their employees, whom they consider to be the backbone of their farm. Durst Organic Growers specializes in asparagus, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, and winter squash.
How does one grow great tasting and prolific crops like asparagus year after year on the same soil? “Feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants” is the maxim followed at Durst Organic Growers in Hungry Hollow. Since the early 1980s, the Dursts have used farming techniques that build soil fertility while balancing wildlife and insect ecology. They plant cover crops (crops grown solely to add nutrients and build the soil), rotate the location of crops each year, and use soil amendments based on needs identified by soil tests. We reap the benefits of this careful process each time we enjoy the beautiful spring harvest of asparagus!
Here is a two minute video farm tour of Durst Organic Growers.