Monday, June 27, 2011

Early or late, a surprise arrival in the garden


Adding to my confusion about the seasons in San Miguel, this morning I discovered our first asparagus spear popping up tentatively eight or so inches above the ground. In Chicago asparagus emerges in early spring, around April, as the plants awaken from a long winter slumber. San Miguel's winter, which this year came with a few below-freezing overnight temperatures, ended sometime February. Then we slid into three months of hot, dry and dusty weather. About two weeks ago, cooler, rainy weather arrived. So which season are we in--spring, summer or fall?

And now asparagus. Just as surprising, and gratifying, is that spears are coming up at all, from seeds I started about 18 months ago. Germination took two or three weeks, and months more before four or five asparagus-looking ferns finally developed. Until now they seemed unsure about life in my raised beds: Do we want to stay and prosper here? Evidently they decided in our favor.

I've never seen them but rumor has it there are large asparagus farms nearby. Still, every book I'd read warned that growing asparagus from seeds was mission improbable if not impossible. The universal advice was to buy asparagus roots, which look like spiders, except Mexican customs won't allow live plants to get through the mail and I couldn't find any local suppliers. So seeds was the only alternative.

From my experience in Chicago, one does not cut off any spears the first year, only a few the second year, and begin some serious asparagus eating in the third year.

Fresh asparagus should be a treat. There are some Mexican asparagus at the stores right now but before that most came from... Peru! You don't need to be a fanatic locavore to wince at the thought of asparagus coming from that far away.

Even if they travel by air those babies would have to get from the Peruvian farms to the Lima airport, from there to Mexico City and then transfer to a truck to San Miguel or to the grocery store's distribution center. If the asparagus travel economy on a ship they'd have to be embalmed in Peru.

Before the weather gets cold, around December, I'm going to transplant the asparagus to the beds at the far end of the property, where we now have squash, cantaloupes, corn, broccoli and beans. Whenever they decide to send up those luscious spears we'll be ready--spring, summer or fall.

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