Table of Contents
- Edible Uses of Asparagus
- Medicinal Uses of Asparagus
- Alternative Uses of Sparrow Grass
- Growing Asparagus Officinalis
One of the most famous edible shoots in the world, asparagus sometimes escapes from gardens becoming a “wild” edible and medicinal plant.
Finding asparagus in the wild is uncommon here, but with its legendary title mention in Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus and its ability to grow here around Haliburton, it’s making the cut. Here are some established wild stalks, closing in on winter:
Spotting these old yellow stalks is essentially how you find wild asparagus!
Edible Uses of Asparagus
Recent escapees or plantings are too thin for harvest, but once a patch is established you can slice off the tender young spring stalks. They are good raw or cooked. As the season progresses, when the buds start to open the stalks become woody and mildly toxic. Asparagus deprived of sunlight will be white, and the more sun the greener the shoots.
The stalks can be prepared in a myriad of ways including a 10-15 min boil, to roasting to bring out a nuttier flavor. They can be pickled and stored for several years.
The roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute, and unlike many herbal coffee substitutes they contain actual caffeine. They need to be sieved from the berries and thoroughly washed, then dried and roasted.
A wilder spin on asparagus is horsetails, which we’ll cover in the future. I’ll link here field horsetail and variegated horsetail sightings from my iNat uploads. They are not nearly as good as token asparagus, but once in a while I stumble upon someone who likes them. There are countless edible shoots in the wild.
High in dietary fibre.
Medicinal Uses of Asparagus
Asparagus is primarily said to support these body systems:
Medicinal tags include Diuretic and Laxative. See Medicinal tag key for more information.
Common usage includes the powdered seed for nausea. The roots and shoots are or have been used for all sorts of issues, including rheumatism. But most of its medicinal value lies in the fact it’s highly nutritious.
Alternative Uses of Sparrow Grass
Asparagus foliage makes a pretty wreath.
The nectar and pollen attracts various types of bees. The berries may be eaten by birds, such as the eastern bluebird. And possibly by canids like coyotes.
Growing Asparagus Officinalis
While not native, I rarely find it in the wild. It’s still a decent garden veg to tend a bed of. Asparagus has been cultivated for thousands of years. The crowns can be bought and planted during cooler months. Seeds can also be sown in the springtime, once the soil is warm enough. It’s a long term project! Crowns take a few years to mature, but may keep producing for more than a decade.
A little salt can be used to suppress other plants in your asparagus bed – a hint at its maritime origins. And another tip is to plant tomatoes next to it, which may keep the asparagus beetle away.
Young plants can cause dermatitis.
The red berries may be poisonous.
And the Usual Cautions:
1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.
2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.
3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.
4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.
5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.
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Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)