Many look forward to fresh asparagus each spring. Once established, this perennial vegetable is relatively easy to grow; in fact, it often thrives in roadside ditches or abandoned farmsteads in the higher rainfall areas of the state. An asparagus bed in good soil can easily last 15 years or longer.
There are a number of asparagus species, but only one, Asparagus officinalis L., is cultivated for food. Not only is it low in calories, asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin A and contains significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin C as well. In past centuries, it was sometimes prescribed as a gentle diuretic and kidney tonic. Edible asparagus is native to Europe, and has been cultivated for over 2000 years. An ancient Roman author, Cato the Elder, in 200 B.C. wrote detailed directions for growing asparagus that are close to current recommendations.
In South Dakota, the eastern end of the state and the Black Hills are two areas where asparagus can be grown most successfully, but other areas can grow it if extra attention is paid to watering during dry spells, and hardy varieties are used.