0

I discovered what looks like asparagus growing in my backyard. I had cut these down around 3-4 weeks ago (they were fairly tall "wispy" bushes then, with a lot of small red fruits hanging off, so I didn't recognise them as asparagus at the time -- thought they were weeds).

Would these be safe to eat, or are there variants of asparagus (or asparagus look-alikes) that could be toxic? The stems of these ones do look a bit thinner and the triangular "leaves" look less purple than what I can remember of store-bought asparagus. I did a bit of web-searching and could not find anything about potential kinds of asparagus being unsafe to eat, but wanted to get more seasoned advice before trying anything out.

enter image description here enter image description here

3
  • Whereabouts are you located? In m my part of the Northern Hemisphere asparagus won’t emerge until April. This information may also help with determining what the plant may be if it is growing wild. – Neil Tarrant Feb 28 at 9:26
  • @NeilTarrant I'm in Australia, so it is (the last day of) summer here right now. – hiccups Feb 28 at 9:44
  • I am migrating this over to Gardening SE - we have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to the borderline between the two sites when it’s about food: Gardening grows and/or identifies and harvests the plants and Seasoned Advice stores, prepares and serves them. As you need an identification, it’s in Gardening‘s domain. – Stephie Feb 28 at 10:03
3

The asparagus family re-sprouts readily after cutting through the growing season, produces red berries on female plants, has the shape illustrated in your photos, so all indications are that it is an asparagus. The red berries of asparagus are poisonous and the most palatable part is the tip of the shoots when they emerge. Taller specimens are generally too stringy to be interesting. Gardeners generally rogue out any berry producing plants since they tend to be less productive than plants that do not produce berries, to be strictly gender neutral. Watch for asparagus beetles which would also indicate asparagus.

There are 20-30 species of Asparagus, with only one of them grown as a vegetable, Asparagus officinalis. The other species are similar but have no real food value, being grown as decorative foliage plants - their thinness is supported by their stringiness, which makes them durable but not easily masticable. The decorative type is also frequently spiny which makes it less desirable in the food garden.

It's equally plausible that asparagus in the garden was put there for decorative or food purposes given the heat in Australia; in more temperate countries the decorative kinds would be produced under glass with supplementary heat, so any asparagus in the open garden would be very likely the food kind.

3
  • To Colin's point, the berries on the edible asparagus plants easily sprout elsewhere in your (or your neighbor's) garden. In my current area of the US, "wild" clumps are fairly common along country roads. My wife's family used to get their asparagus from a "wild" patch that was growing on the side of a drainage ditch near their house, and we did the same decades later (different clump in a different part of our state). Some of the "wild" clumps are good to eat, others are stringy and nasty, though. – Jurp Feb 28 at 15:03
  • Thanks for the information. It sounds like there aren't any toxicity issues to be concerned about, whatever type of asparagus these may turn out to be, so I'll give them a go. Worst case scenario is an unpleasant meal, I suppose. – hiccups Mar 1 at 10:01
  • @Jurp From the sound of it, I guess that one of my neighbours growing some caused these to sprout, then. They're located close to the fence so that would make sense. I'll just have to see if these turn out to be the stringy kind! – hiccups Mar 1 at 10:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.