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An asparagus to be reckoned with: Spectacular spear soars skyward in Easthampton

  • The giant asparagus in Charlotte Briggs’ yard is seen next to two neighborhood children Friday. Erin Long Photography

  • A giant asparagus is seen among its fellows in Charlotte Briggs’ yard on Franklin Street. Erin Long Photography

  • The giant asparagus in Charlotte Briggs’ yard on Franklin Street when it measured 46 inches Friday. Erin Long Photography

  • The giant asparagus in Charlotte Briggs’ yard on Franklin Street is seen Friday. Holdyn Newman-Long/Erin Long Photography

Staff Writer
Published: 5/16/2020 12:46:28 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Asparagus, one of the culinary treats of spring, has a long history in the Pioneer Valley. And some more of that history just might be growing in one couple’s yard.

Charlotte Briggs and her wife have a spear of asparagus growing in their yard that as of Saturday morning was 52 inches tall and counting. Friday afternoon it was 46 inches tall, and it was 44 inches that morning.

“This thing is up to my chest at this point,” Briggs said Friday. “I’m short, though.”

Briggs said that she’s normally found asparagus to leaf out at no more than 12 to 14 inches, but that’s not been the case with this stalk.

“Now we’re taking the tape measure out every morning and every afternoon to check it,” she said. “It grows several inches a day.”

She also said that a spear growing for about two weeks without leafing is also unusual, although she did note on Saturday that it had definitely started to open up.

The Guinness Book of World Records for tallest asparagus is 138.5 inches, so the height Briggs’ asparagus has reached is not unheard of.

“But this is pretty darn big,” she noted.

Tom Waskiewicz, a third-generation asparagus farmer in Hadley whose father was once the biggest asparagus grower in the Pioneer Valley, was impressed when he heard about Briggs’ special spear Friday morning.

“No way, usually when it hits about nine inches it starts to go to flower,” he said. “That’s highly unusual.”

 Waskiewicz, who grows asparagus on Waskiewicz Farm, also expressed the desire to see and learn more about the giant specimen.

“This could be a saving grace for asparagus production,” he said. “They may have come across something just through a fluke.”

Briggs doesn’t know the exact variety of asparagus the tall spear is, only that it is a purple variety that she planted last year. She also said that none of its fellow asparagus spears have shown the same propensity for height.

Briggs and her wife moved to Easthampton from Chicago in 2012. At the time, their yard was all pavement and grass. Now fruit trees, berry bushes, vegetables and flowers all grow on the grounds of their Franklin Street home.

Asparagus was one of the first plants the couple put in.

“It takes a few years to get it really going,” she said. 

However, the perennial crop now provides them with food every spring.

“It’s pick and come up,” she said. “We get enough to eat every day for a couple months.”

Briggs said that sauteing and steaming the vegetable are some of their preferred ways to eat it.

“We eat it for breakfasts, we eat it for snacks, with anything for dinner,” Briggs said.

She also said that they make a shaved asparagus salad with their bounty.

Contrary to popular wisdom, Briggs said, she’s found that bigger asparagus stalks are actually quite tender. And she said that they’ll eventually eat their giant spear.

“Our plan is to eat it before it eats us,” she said via text.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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