When I was in junior high, my mom, my little brother and I moved into Grandpa and Grandma’s little basement apartment on East Orchard Mesa while my father was stationed overseas for a year.
It was quite a change from Jamestown, N.D., where we’d endured the previous frozen four years.
My brother and I traded ice skates and snowmobile suits for tennis shoes and shorts, and we freeranged all over the desert, orchards and canals. My grandma was a fun companion and a real outdoorswoman. She was happiest hiking for hours, searching for arrowheads or geodes.
Spring evenings we’d grab City Market bags and paring knives and roam the orchards and ditchbanks, looking for asparagus. I couldn’t believe it. Here was a paradise where you could just walk around and lop off food growing in the wild.
Everyone will tell you, and it’s true, that there’s not near the amount of wild asparagus there used to be. So I knew if I wanted a steady supply of succulent spring asparagus like I had in my youth, I was going to have to grow my own.
Step One was to find asparagus. I got an itchy planting finger starting in March. Too early. Mount Garfield Greenhouse eventually hooked me up with two varieties: Jersey Hybrid and Martha Washington.
Step Two was to dig a trench. And I mean a TRENCH. It’s only a slight exaggeration that it looks like my neighbor’s home is about to be consumed in this photo.
Step Three was to spread out the roots, which remind me of “Predator” dreadlocks, and bury them in the trench.
Since then half a dozen delicate tendrils have sprouted, and just the other day I spotted one wild stand of asparagus in the bottom of our field. My grandma went by “GG” in her later years, acknowledging her most-recent title: Great-Grandma. When we harvest asparagus, whether wild or tame, it will always be GG’s asparagus to us.