Asparagus: The Edible Spear

Asparagus is one of the worlds most popular vegetables. It has long been considered a delicacy because of its unusual flavor, its labor intensive cultivation, and limited availability.

Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese

Though it does not resemble it, Asparagus is a member of the lily family and is distantly related to garlic. It is native to Asia, North Africa, and Europe. It is commonly found growing wild in temperate climates throughout the world. It was commonly consumed in the ancient world. It appeared in Egyptian records as early as 3000 B.C. Louis XIV of France liked it so well that he had it grown in greenhouses for year round consumption.

Because asparagus is a perennial it need only be planted once for the gardener to enjoy produce for many years. Its Latin or scientific name is Asparagus officinalis. Asparagus cultivation begins by planting crowns (roots of one year old plants) in the early spring. The first real crop can be harvested in the third year. Spears above 1/4-inch thick are cut close to or slightly below the surface with a sharp knife. The biggest pest is the asparagus beetle, which eats the foliage of the plant. The best way to control pests is to clear away the old stalks in the fall season after they have dried out.

There are many varieties of asparagus. The classic standard is Martha Washington, but there are higher yielding varieties especially the various Jerseys. There are also California varieties that better withstand drier weather.

Asparagus has many health benefits. It contains folate, and many anti-oxidants including vitamins C and E. Asparagine is an amino acid in asparagus that is also a diuretic. The vitamin K in asparagus is essential for blood clotting. Check the USDA nutritional info on asparagus.

For taste and texture there is nothing like asparagus. Asparagus recipes are treasured in many kitchens. Its appearance on the table often marks special occasions. In preparing asparagus be sure to remove the bottom inch or so of the stems, which often become woody. We have developed a few recipes:

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