Sandburg's Hometown

April 6, 2015

Asparagus garden


by Barbara Schock

We cannot be certain if the Sandburg family grew and ate asparagus. Since August Sandburg was a dedicated gardener in order to provide food for his family and to save on grocery bills, he more than likely had a bed of asparagus growing at the side or toward the back of his garden. Mrs. Sandburg probably prepared the vegetable in a simple way and served it to her husband and children.

The asparagus plant is native to the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It was brought to the United States in about 1850. In rural areas, it became the custom to have a patch growing next to a fence, but not in the garden. The mature plant grows into a feathery green hedge which takes more room than other vegetables grown in home gardens. On the other hand, it required little care after the bed was established. That would have appealed to August Sandburg. He could spend more time on raising other vegetables.

Asparagus crowns are planted about six to twelve inches deep and need three years to produce a crop. August Sandburg would have had the patience to wait. The plants can continue to produce for twenty to thirty years. Planted in a sunny and sandy spot, asparagus will provide the first vegetable of spring for the family table.

The vegetable is very low in calories, but provides dietary fiber, several anti-oxidants and many vitamins and minerals. It can be eaten raw, steamed, stir-fried, sauteed, roasted or grilled. Asparagus can be combined with eggs, cheese, ham, chicken, lamb and seafood. It can be pickled. It can be eaten hot or cold in soups or salads.

The thickness of the stem of asparagus indicates the age of the plant. The stem should be about the diameter of a pencil for the best eating. If the base of the stem is somewhat tough, it can be peeled with a vegetable peeler. There are special tall pots available for cooking asparagus. The base of the stems are placed in the cooking water, and the heads are steamed while cooking. The cooking time is only a few minutes.

In ancient times, the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians ate asparagus for its medicinal properties. It has diuretic qualities that were thought to be good for some heart conditions and irritable bowel disease.

White asparagus is very popular in European and Scandinavian countries. The plants are covered with earth while growing so there is no photosynthesis. This keeps the spears white and tender. In the spring restaurants make a specialty of serving white asparagus.

Today China grows most of the world's supply of asparagus. In this country, California, Michigan and Washington are the states producing most of the asparagus crop.

A handbook of cooking for Swedish-American immigrants published in 1899, gave this recipe for serving Sparris:

Put the green part into boiling water, lightly salted. Boil 5 minutes and pour off water. Add more boiling water and boil ten to fifteen minutes. Add a lump of butter, salt and pepper and stir in a thickening made of one teaspoon flour mixed with a little cold water. Simmer until thickened. Pour over slices of buttered toast and serve.

This simple dish presents asparagus at its best as the first vegetable of spring.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
April 13, 2015 Asparagus
April 6, 2015  Mayor John C. Stewart 
March 30, 2015 Basket Ball
March 23, 2015 The Courthouse of Knox County, IL
March 16, 2015

“Trifles make perfection...”

March 9, 2015 Uncle Tom's Cabin
March 2, 2015 Martha Sandburg Goldstone
February 23, 2015 Devotion
February 16, 2015  Gumbiner's Pawn Shop 
February 9, 2015 White Bread
February 2, 2015 The Monarch Club
January 26, 2015 The Silver Dollar
January 19, 2015 The Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway
January 12, 2015 The Four Corners
December 22, 2014 Swedish Christmas
December 8, 2014 Christmas 1878
December 1, 2014 Bunker Boots & Shoes
November 24, 2014 Galesburg, Illinois
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014 4  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013 Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013 Lace Curtains
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity