Asparagus is literally the growing shoot of a perennial plant raised in furrowed fields. Commercial plantings take two or more years to become established and require much hand labor in all phases of growing and harvesting.
Asparagus is harvested when the spears emerge in the springtime. Workers walk the furrows and select the choicest spears each day, cutting them individually by hand with long-handled knives. They look for those spears 10 to 12 inches (25-30 cm) long with compact, tight heads and good green color. Spears with loose heads have lost part of their tenderness and will soon start to develop into adult plants. Spears with loose heads are not commercialy attractive.
While the harvest season lasts only 60 to 90 days in each area, the range of micro-climates in the region allows for fresh asparagus to be available from January through May. A small amount also may be harvested in September and October. The fresh cut spears are placed in small piles next to the beds, then gathered in bins covered with wet burlap to maintain freshness, and rushed to the packing shed by small tractors.