previous next


Of all the garden plants, asparagus is the one that requires the most delicate attention in its cultivation. We have already1 spoken at considerable length of its origin, when treating of the wild plants, and have mentioned that Cato2 recommends it to be grown in reed-beds. There is another kind, again, of a more uncultivated nature than the garden asparagus, but less pungent than corruda;3 it grows upon the mountains in different countries, and the plains of Upper Germany are quite full of it, so much so, indeed, that it was a not unhappy remark of Tiberius Cæsar, that a weed grows there which bears a remarkably strong resemblance to asparagus. That which grows spontaneously upon the island of Nesis, off the coast of Campania, is looked upon as being by far the best of all.

Garden asparagus is reproduced from roots,4 the fibres of which are exceedingly numerous, and penetrate to a considerable depth. When it first puts forth its shoots, it is green; these in time lengthen out into stalks, which afterwards throw out streaked branches from the head: asparagus admits, also, of being grown from seed.

Cato5 has treated of no subject with greater care than this, the last Chapter of his work being devoted to it, from which we may conclude that it was quite new to him, and a subject which had only very recently occupied his attention. He recommends that the ground prepared for it should be a moist or dense soil, the seed being set at intervals of half a foot every way, to avoid treading upon the heads; the seed, he says, should be put two or three into each hole, these being made with the dibble as the line runs—for in his day, it should be remembered, asparagus was only grown from seed—this being done about the vernal equinox. It requires, he adds, to be abundantly manured, and to be kept well hoed, due care being taken not to pull up the young plants along with the weeds. The first year, he says, the plants must be protected from the severity of the winter with a covering of straw, care being taken to uncover them in the spring, and to hoe and stub up the ground about them. In the spring of the third year, the plants must be set fire to, and the earlier the period at which the fire is applied, the better they will thrive. Hence it is, that as reed-beds6 grow all the more rapidly after being fired, asparagus is found to be a crop remarkably well suited for growing with them. The same author recommends, however, that asparagus should not be hoed before the plants have made their appearance above-ground, for fear of disturbing the roots; and he says that in gathering the heads, they should be cut close to the root, and not broken off at the surface, a method which is sure to make them run to stalk and die. They should be cut, he says, until they are left to run to seed, and after the seed is ripe, in spring they must be fired, care being taken, as soon as they appear again, to hoe and manure them as before. After eight or nine years, he says, when the plants have become old, they must be renewed, after digging and manuring the ground, by replanting the roots at intervals of a foot, care being taken to employ sheep's dung more particularly for the purpose, other kinds of manure being apt to produce weeds.

No method of cultivating this plant that has since been tried has been found more eligible than this, with the sole exception that the seed is now sown about the ides of February, by laying it in heaps in small trenches, after steeping it a considerable time in manure; the result of which is that the roots become matted, and form into spongy tufts, which are planted out at intervals of a foot after the autumnal equinox, the plants continuing to be productive so long as ten years even. There is no soil more favourable to the growth of asparagus, than that of the gardens of Ravenna.7

We have already8 spoken of the corruda, by which term I mean the wild asparagus, by the Greeks called "orminos," or "myacanthos," as well as by other names. I find it stated, that if rams' horns are pounded, and then buried in the ground, asparagus will come up.9

1 In B. xvi. c. 67. The Asparagus officinalis of Linnæus.

2 De Re Rust. c. 161.

3 Or wild sperage. See B. xvi. c. 67; also B. xx. c. 43.

4 "Spongiis." Fée is at a loss to know why the name "spongia" should have been given to the roots of asparagus. Probably, as Facciolati says, from their growing close and matted together. See the end of this Chapter.

5 D Re Rust. c. 161.

6 See B. xvii. c. 47.

7 On the contrary, Martial says that the asparagus of Ravenna was no better than so much wild asparagus.

8 In B. xvi. c. 67. See also c. 19 of this Book.

9 Dioscorides mentions this absurdity, but refuses to credit it.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: