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Local Wild Plant Profile: Asparagus


Local Wild Plant Profile: Asparagus

Wild asparagus (asparagus officinialis) can be found throughout West Michigan along roadsides, in fields, and along fence rows. Wild asparagus tends to have a bit sweeter taste than cultivated asparagus.

Asparagus is best harvested in the spring, but it can be identified for future harvesting throught the summer season.

Identification

Wild asparagus is a soft, feathery plant that grows about two to six feet tall. It has a fern-like appearance with side branches evenly spaced along a central stalk that tapers as it nears the top.

Here’s a picture of the plant from a distance:

asparagus-01

A close up of the foliage:

Wild Asparagus Foliage

Each plant grows several stalks, as shown in this picture of the base of the plant:

Wild Asparagus Shoots

As the growing season continues, wild asparagus produces berries that eventually turn red:

Wild Asparagus with berries

If you see this plant, it’s worth remembering the location as it is a perennial that comes back each year.

Harvesting

Wild asparagus is harvested best in the spring in late April through May. Its shoots look similar (albeit generally a bit skinnier) than the asparagus that is grown in gardens or on farms. Break off the shoots when they are four to six inches tall.

Here is a close up of an asparagus shoot:

Wild Asparagus Shoots

In the spring, search for brown, dead foliage of the previous year’s growth and look at the base for new shoots.

Asparagus will send up shoots throughout the summer, so one may occasionally find a shoot or two during the summer season.

It can be eaten raw (it tastes surprisingly good) or can be prepared the same as cultivated asparagus.