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GARY CHURCH Greenspace

Eastbrook resident Tom Lysiak loves growing and eating asparagus.

Unfortunately, I don�t share Tom�s admiration of the vegetable. I neither grow it nor � until Tom placed one in my hands � have ever touched the thing.

Tom called and wanted me to see his asparagus tree. I don�t grow asparagus, but I do know, like money, it doesn�t grow on trees.

Tom, a retired teacher from the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center, has a large patch of asparagus growing in his garden. Asparagus is a hardy perennial. Tom�s planting is 20 years old and it keeps on coming back year after year.

Tom only grows male asparagus. I bet you didn�t know there were Mr. and Mrs. Asparagus plants. The Martha Washington variety has both male and female plants. The female gets the seeds that causes the plants to multiply, which then causes overcrowding. You have to thin them every year. This is hard labor.

The male varieties, like Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight, get little bell flowers but do not reproduce plants. The fruit then is much larger than the females. Like me, the male asparagus is low maintenance. This is not the case with the female varieties.

Each year, Tom uses 10 pounds of salt on his asparagus plot, plus grass clippings to keep the weeds down. In the fall he uses a lawn roller to flatten the plants and then a lawn mower to mulch them up.

Tom�s tree had me baffled. When in trouble, I stop off and see Paul Skuta for some help.

Paul took one look at the photo and said the botanical term for that is �cresting.� A chemical imbalance inside the plant causes all the stems to join together and make an unusual looking plant. Cactus, roadside weeds and cockscomb celosia are a few plants that are known for cresting, along with pines. You can add asparagus to that list.

My rule of thumb is, if anything taste�s good, it is bad for you. On the other hand, if it is terrible tasting, it is quite healthy. Asparagus contains vitamins and fiber, plus contains no fat or cholesterol.

There is a downside to asparagus that you may not know about. You may want to consider them before you force it down your family�s throats.

During the Renaissance period, it was banned from the nunneries because it was thought to have aphrodisiac properties. If you aren�t sure what aphrodisiac means, it prompts you to want to kiss someone � and then some.

Next, a 1980 study was made in France that showed odorous urine was a universal human characteristic after eating asparagus. I could think of better jobs than the one working in the lab for those tests.

I will probably stick to my meat-and-potato diet.

Speaking of Paul Skuta, there will be a tour Tuesday of his native plant landscaping around his home. It is part of the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts educational series. Participants will meet at 6 p.m. at the Hoyt and travel to his home for the tour. If you have never seen a paw paw tree or persimmons, Paul has them growing in his yard, along with other weird stuff.

The cost is $40 for members and $50 for non-members. Call the Hoyt at (724) 652-2882 on Tuesday for reservations.

Someone asked me the other day, �What do you want people to say about you when you�re gone and they are viewing you in the casket?�

I think the greatest thing they could say is, �Look, he�s moving!�

Make your space a green space.

(Gary Church writes a weekly column for The News.)

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