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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does an asparagus crop last?

The oldest commercial block of asparagus in New Zealand was 58 years old. More commonly blocks last 10 to 15 years although fields that are 20 years old can be found.

What is asparagus?

Asparagus is a member of the lily family and is possibly the only lily that we eat.

Where did asparagus come from?

Asparagus originated in the salt marshes of the Mediterranean. It is extremely salt tolerant- before herbicides were developed it was common practice to spread salt (sodium chloride) on asparagus to control weeds. More recently it has been shown that salt helps to control the fungus Fusarium that causes root and crown rot of asparagus.

The purple variety Pacific Purple was selected from a tetraploid (4 copies of each chromosome) type of asparagus called Violetto d'Albenga (Violet of Albenga) which is thought to have originated by spontaneous mutation about 300 years ago in the province of Albenga in northern Italy. Normal green asparagus e.g. Pacific 2000 is diploid ( 2 copies of each chromosome).

Why do some plants have berries and some don't?

Most asparagus varieties contain 50% male plants (no berries) and 50% females which have the berries. Each berry may contain up to 6 seeds. Some varieties have only male plants - these are called all-male hybrids and are unable to reproduce by seed.

Why does asparagus make my urine smell?

After eating asparagus some people excrete a strong smelling compound in their urine. The compound is mainly methanethiol and the ability to produce it is controlled by a recessive gene in humans. If both parents produce the compound then all their children will produce it, if only one parent produced the compound then on average between 0 and 50% of their children may produce it, and if neither parent produces the compound then on average between 0 and 25% of their children may produce it.

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