When we think of asparagus, what usually comes to mind is the dark green, mild earthy-tasting spring treat. While all this is true, the asparagus family also offers beautiful purple cultivars that can be grown right here in West Virginia.
No matter the color, asparagus is high in potassium, fiber and vitamin B6. However, purple asparagus, which gets its color from anthocyanin, will deliver a sweeter taste and more vitamin C per serving than its green counterpart.
Establishing purple asparagus is the same as green asparagus in the soil requirements and planting methods. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that can produce for more than 15 years. Choose a site that gets full sun, has well-drained soil and is free of perennial weeds.
Take the time to perform the all-important soil test – this should be your first step in all planting, but especially when you’re making a commitment to an asparagus plot. Asparagus does well in soils with a relatively high pH of 6.8 to 7.0.
While you can start your asparagus from seed, it is recommended to purchase one-year-old crowns and plant 8 inches apart in early spring when the weather is still cool. Traditional green varieties should be planted 12 inches apart.
For West Virginia, recommended varieties of purple asparagus include Purple Passion and Pacific Purple.
Harvest purple asparagus when the stalks are at least the thickness of a pencil and around 6 to 10 inches tall. The flavor of purple asparagus will be the same for most cooking methods, but the beauty of the deep purple color is best when it’s steamed.