|Asparagus officinalis ‘Mary Washington’
Common name: Asparagus ‘Mary Washington’
Zone: 3 – 8 Type: perennial
Height: 3-5 ft (90-150 cm) Spread: 30 in (75 cm)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade
Soil: alkaline; free-draining; humus-rich
|Description: A vigorous-growing, open-pollinated perennial with feathery blue-green foliage. The edible stems…typically called spears…are emerald-green in colour and tipped with purple buds. The delicate flavour of the spears holds well at peak quality over a longer than typical cutting period.
Special Notes: Native to the Mediterranean region, asparagus, which was once used medicinally by the Greeks, became very popular with the Romans as a highly nutritious vegetable, and they spread it throughout Europe as they expanded their Empire. When the Roman Empire tumbled, so did asparagus. It was not to be resurrected until the Renaissance when it was again deemed “an elegant vegetable” worthy of gracing the tables of the wealthy. Early pioneers brought asparagus crowns with them to America where it established easily…and also escaped garden boundaries to become wild specimens.
The Department of Agriculture in Concord, MA undertook to breed an asparagus which would be more resistant to rust and fusarium wilt…two diseases which plague this vegetable. From these efforts, three varieties emerged: ‘Mary Washington’, ‘Martha Washington’, and ‘Washington’.
Introduced in 1906, ‘Mary Washington’ received enthusiastic reviews from gardeners for having more vigorous growth, higher yields, and better rust resistance while imparting wonderful flavour and great texture.
‘Mary Washington’ has both male and female plants in its gene pool…although some references state this variety only contains female plants. These same references also claim male plants are more productive than female plants…even though all reports tout ‘Mary Washington’ as a vigorous grower.
In our Zone 7a garden: This vegetable is not in our garden just yet. We only decided this year to add asparagus to our list of things to grow and I opted to try growing this heirloom variety from seed. At the moment, I have four seedlings up in nine days, after soaking the seeds for two days, as recommended. I will likely follow the advice from one grower of potting up the young seedlings and growing them on for a year before transplanting them into their permanent bed. I will keep you posted.
Posted on March 10, 2017