Asparagus is a Fern-Like Delicate Vegetable.
Asparagus
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Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a fern-like, flowering, fruit-bearing plant that can grow to 4 - 6 ft (1.22 - 1.83 m) tall. Asparagus grows fresh in the spring and it is a close cousin of the onion and garlic. Asparagus is a sturdy vegetable. Historically, Asparagus was used as a medicine, due to its diuretic properties and as a stimulant and aphrodisiac.

Today, Asparagus remains very popular in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, where the product is almost exclusively White Asparagus and there are typically separate words to denote green Asparagus. In Germany, the Spargelzeit, the fresh Asparagus season sees nearly half the countries production sold at farmer’s markets and road stands by the end of June. In Britain, the fresh Asparagus season starting on or about April 23rd and is highly anticipated. The short growing season limits production. Asparagus did not cross over to America until the 1850’s. Today, this vegetable is grown widely in California’s central valley, near Sacramento and Stockton.

Season

Asparagus is typically categorized with the Spring Fruit & Vegetables because they are harvested March through June. The actual harvesting date depends on the weather and the region.

Availability

Asparagus is available all year long.

Cultivation

Unlike the vast majority of the plants that we call "vegetables," Asparagus is an herbaceous perennial that goes dormant in the Winter. Asparagus need full sun in order to produce a bountiful supply of spears and thrives in salty, maritime habitats. Depending on the climate, Asparagus is generally started in the late winter or early spring by planting bare crowns (the root and base of the plant) about a foot deep in sandy soil. Each crown will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during late Spring and early Summer. The first pickings or "thinnings" are available by late April with very thin stems and are known as Sprue Asparagus. The outdoor temperature determines how much time will elapse between each picking. Early in the season, under cooler conditions there may be 4-5 days between pickings. As the days and nights get warmer, a particular field may have to be picked every 24 hours. Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10" in a 24-hour period. After harvesting is completed, the spears will grow into ferns, which will produce red berries and the food and nutrients necessary for a healthy and productive crop the next season.

30-40 plants should do for a family of 4, but be careful were the Asparagus is planted. They are a long lived plant (up to 15 years) and will be with your garden for sometime. Asparagus crowns can be ordered from many farm and garden centers.

Asparagus is also a useful companion plant for Tomatoes. The tomato plant, repels the Asparagus Beetle, as do several other common companion plants of tomatoes. However, Asparagus may repel some harmful root nematodes that harm the tomato plants. Double check before planting and making the mistake of ruining the growth of your Asparagus.

Production

China is the largest commercial producer of Asparagus, with almost 6 million tons per year. Peru is the second largest producer (206,000 tons) and the U.S. grows the third most Asparagus in the world (90,200 tons). The United States production is dominated by California, Michigan and Washington State. The annual production for White Asparagus in Germany is 57,000 tons which is only 61% of consumer demand. Much of their Asparagus has to be imported and the EU is the leading Asparagus importer. Nonetheless, Schwetzingen, Germany, claims to be the "White Asparagus Capital of the World."

Purchasing

Stem thickness indicates the age of Asparagus. The thicker stems come from older plants. Older, thicker, stalks can be woody and Peeling Asparagus skin at the base will remove the tough layer. Look for bright, green, odorless Asparagus stalks with tight, dry tips but moist cut ends. Select Asparagus spears that have a uniform thickness so they will cook evenly. Don’t buy limp or wilted stalks. The bottom portion of Asparagus often contains sand, grit and dirt, so a washing is advised before prepping and cooking.

Storage

Keep fresh Asparagus refrigerated. They can typically last for up to 3-5 days, refrigerated. Store them in a plastic bag with the cut ends wrapped in a moist paper towel to prevent drying. Some chefs store them in a container, vase-like, with cold water. If the tips become slightly wilted, you can refresh them up by soaking them in cold water. Keep fresh Asparagus moist and cool until you intend to use them.

Frozen Asparagus: Keep frozen Asparagus in the freezer until they are ready for use. Read the label on the package to determine if the frozen Asparagus product should be thawed or used frozen. If your frozen Asparagus defrosts, cook it immediately. You can also freeze fresh Asparagus, but Smart Kitchen recommends "Blanching" fresh Asparagus before freezing. Do not re-freeze, thawed-frozen Asparagus or fresh-frozen Asparagus. Use any frozen Asparagus within 8 months.

For canned Asparagus, keep in a cool, dry, place until it's shelf life ends.

Culinary Uses

Asparagus is eaten worldwide and was considered a delicacy, before global trade improved its year round availability. Because older Asparagus quickly turns woody, only young Asparagus shoots are commonly eaten but they are prepared many different ways and consistently eaten as Appetizers or vegetable Side Dishes.

In classic French cooking, Asparagus is frequently Boiled or Steamed and served with a rich complimentary sauce like Hollandaise Sauce or Mayonnaise. It can also be accompanied by a condiment like melted Butter, Olive Oil, or even Parmesan Cheese.  There are even specialized Asparagus Pots in France which will steam the tips while keeping them out of the water.

Grilling Asparagus is another way that the vegetable shines. It can also be an ingredient in Soups and Stews. In Asia, Asparagus is often Stir-Fried and served with a protein like Beef, Chicken, Pork and Seafood.

Currently, there is a trend towards enjoying Asparagus, raw or almost raw, as the Greeks and early Romans preferred it. The Emperor Augustus, coined the Latin term “Velocius Quam Asparagi Coquantur” meaning “faster than cooking Asparagus,” to describe quick action and even reserved a fleet in the spring to rapidly ship the fresh vegetable. There is a 3rd Century Ad recipe for cooking Asparagus in book III of Apicus’ cookbook De re Coquinaria.

Other Suggestions for using Asparagus are:

Compound Butters (like Chive, Parsley, Chervil, Savory, Tarragon or other spices) melted over Asparagus.

Asparagus can also be pickled or marinated and stored for several years, in cans or glass jars.

Puréed in a food processor or cut for Soups, Stews, creamed dishes, or Sauces.

Portion Size

Allow 2-4 Asparagus spears per person.

Pairings

Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil, Truffle Oil, Unsalted Butter, Goats Cheese, Fontina Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, Black Pepper, White Pepper, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Fresh Dill, Dried Dill, Fresh Chervil, Garlic, Cayenne, Caraway Seeds, Bread Crumbs, Fresh Basil, Fresh Parsley, Dried Parsley, Dried Basil, Artichokes, Ginger, Leeks, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Mayonnaise, Pasta, Chicken, Beef, Fish, Shrimp, Oysters, Pork, Seafood

Nutritional Value USDA
ASPARAGUS,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 20
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 2mg
4%
Potassium 202mg
1%
Total Carbohydrate 3g
8%
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 1g
Protein 2g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence. It leads nearly all produce items in the wide array of nutrients it supplies in significant amounts for a healthy diet. It is very low in sodium, low in calories and a wealth of antioxidants. It is a good source of vitamins like, B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin (which strengthens capillary walls), niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, glutathione (GSH), copper, manganese and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. The amino acid "asparagine," gets its name from Asparagus, as the asparagus plant is rich in this compound.

The second century physician Galen, described asparagus as "cleansing and healing." Folklore credits it with being able to cure toothaches. Modern sources claim that water in which Asparagus has been cooked can help clean blemishes on the face if used routinely. Dianne Onstead, Whole Food Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers and Lovers of Natural Foods claims that Asparagus contains components that “act as a diuretic, neutralize ammonia that makes us tired, and protect small blood vessels from rupturing. Its fiber content makes it a laxative, too." John Heinerman's, Heinerman's new Encyclopedia of Fruits and Vegetables states that "Cooked Asparagus and its watery juices are very good for helping dissolve uric acid deposits in the extremities, (which can cause gout). As well as inducing urination where such a function may be lacking or only done on an infrequent basis. Asparagus is especially useful in cases of hypertension where the amount of sodium in the blood, far exceeds the potassium present. Cooked Asparagus also increases "bowel evacuations."

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes