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Asparagus officinalis - L.                
Common Name Asparagus, Garden asparagus
Family Asparagaceae
USDA hardiness 2-9
Known Hazards Large quantities of the shoots can irritate the kidneys[20, 62]. The berries are mildly poisonous[163].
Habitats Fertile and sandy soils by the seashore and along river banks[9, 132].
Range Western Europe, including Britain, from N. Germany to S. W. France.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Asparagus officinalis is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 0.8 m (2ft 7in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in August, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid, very alkaline and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Asparagus officinalis Asparagus, Garden asparagus

Asparagus officinalis Asparagus, Garden asparagus
 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Stem.
Edible Uses: Coffee.

Young shoots - raw or cooked[2, 5, 15, 16, 27, K]. Considered a gourmet food[132], the shoots are harvested in the spring. We find them very acceptable raw in salads, with a hint of onion in their flavour[K]. They are normally boiled or steamed and used as a vegetable[K]. Male plants produce the best shoots[1]. Do not over-harvest the plant because this would weaken it in the following year. The shoots are a good source of protein and dietary fibre[201]. Roasted seeds are a coffee substitute[21, 46, 183].
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Stem (Fresh weight)
  • 26 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 91.7%
  • Protein: 2.5g; Fat: 0.2g; Carbohydrate: 5g; Fibre: 0.7g; Ash: 0.6g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 22mg; Phosphorus: 62mg; Iron: 1mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 2mg; Potassium: 278mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 540mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.18mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.2mg; Niacin: 1.5mg; B6: 0mg; C: 33mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antibiotic;  Antispasmodic;  Aperient;  Cancer;  Cardiac;  Demulcent;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Laxative;  Sedative;  Tonic.

Asparagus has been cultivated for over 2,000 years as a vegetable and medicinal herb[238]. Both the roots and the shoots can be used medicinally, they have a restorative and cleansing effect on the bowels, kidneys and liver[238]. The plant is antispasmodic, aperient, cardiac, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, sedative and tonic[4, 21, 165, 201, 240]. The freshly expressed juice is used[4]. The root is diaphoretic, strongly diuretic and laxative[9, 218, 222]. An infusion is used in the treatment of jaundice and congestive torpor of the liver[240]. The strongly diuretic action of the roots make it useful in the treatment of a variety of urinary problems including cystitis[254]. It is also used in the treatment of cancer[218]. The roots are said to be able to lower blood pressure[7, 222]. The roots are harvested in late spring, after the shoots have been cut as a food crop, and are dried for later use[7]. The seeds possess antibiotic activity[222]. Another report says that the plant contains asparagusic acid which is nematocidal and is used in the treatment of schistosomiasis[238].
Other Uses

The plant contains asparagusic acid, which has nematocidal properties[238].
Cultivation details                                         
Easily grown in any good garden soil[16]. Prefers a rich well-drained sandy loam and a sunny position[1, 16, 27, 238]. Prefers a pH of 6.5 or higher[200], though it tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 8.2. Asparagus is often cultivated as a luxury vegetable, there are some named varieties[16, 183]. Well-tended plants can be long-lived, an asparagus bed can last for well over 20 years. Asparagus is a good companion plant for tomatoes, parsley and basil[18, 20, 201]. When grown together, tomatoes help to protect asparagus from the asparagus beetle[201]. Asparagus is said to repel the nematodes that can infect tomatoes[201] (see the report below on the plants other uses). A good bee plant[108]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Seed - pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring or as soon as the seed is ripe in early autumn in a greenhouse. It usually germinates in 3 - 6 weeks at 25°c[134]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer[K]. Division in early spring as the plant comes into growth.
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[15]Bryan. J. and Castle. C. Edible Ornamental Garden.
A small book with interesting ideas for edible plants in the ornamental garden.
[16]Simons. New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
[18]Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B. Companion Plants.
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
[20]Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Fairly good.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[27]Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden.
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[108]International Bee Research Association. Garden Plants Valuable to Bees.
The title says it all.
[132]Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth.
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
[134]Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[201]Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting.
A well produced and very readable book.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[222]Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[240]Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Dr. Syed Rafatullah Sun Jul 1 2007
Very informative,useful with authentic references page, but lacking some recent or previous scintific studies carried out on this plant.All my appreciations for good work. Dr.Syed Rafatullah, BMUS;MD(Unani Medicine);DHom;MFHom. Asst.Researcher, Medicinal, Aromatic and Poisonous Plants Research center, College of Pharmacy,P.O.Box 2457 King Saud University, RIYADH 11451, Saudi Arabia.
Elizabeth H.
Raffi Thu Mar 19 2009

Plants.am Asparagus cultivation information

Ellen H.
Dosage, Warning and Side Effects. Mar 10 2015 12:00AM
Loyola Medicine: Asparagus
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