The cultivation of Asparagus has a long history dating back to at least 2000 years when the Egyptians grew it for its health and medicinal properties. It also has connections to Ancient Rome and Greece. Asparagus is from the genus Asparagus and species A. officinalis. Asparagus is a unique plant from the plant family Asparagaceae.
Asparagus is typically green in colour but does have a purple cultivar. The purple cultivar will stay purple if steamed or stir fried but may revert to green when boiled or cooked for too long. White Asparagus comes from the same plant as the green. All Asparagus is white to start with and changes to green when in sunlight. White Asparagus is allowed to grow underground. When the tips begin showing through the mounded soil heaps it is harvested by digging around to the base of the crown and cut off.
In Ancient Greece and Rome, the name Asparagus was coined from the old Persian word asparag. Asparag means, “to shoot”. Throughout the years it has been known by several names including Sperage, Sparagus and Sparrow grass.
Only the young shoots of asparagus are eaten.
Asparagus has no cholesterol, is very low in calories and very little salt. It is high in Vitamins A, C, E and K. It is a rich source of thiamine, rutin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, folic acid, phosphorous, manganese, copper, selenium and potassium.
Asparagus crowns are planted around 30 cm (1 foot) in a light rich sandy soil. Given ideal conditions an Asparagus spear can grow up to nearly a foot within a 24-hour period. The growing period is relatively short lived however, with a plant producing for only around 6 to 8 weeks of the year. If not harvested when harvesting is completed left over spears will grow into ferns and may produce berries.
Newly planted asparagus are usually left for around 3 years before harvesting. The plants will usually survive for 10 to 15 years of harvesting time.
They are a very versatile vegetable found in stir fries and other Asian dishes, as a grilled entree and in salads. Asparagus can be bought in tins making them an ideal food for camping, hiking or for keeping as spares in the cupboard for a rainy day.
Asparagus can also be found in health foods and supplements. Its high nutrient value makes it an ideal ingredient in super foods and vitamin supplements. As a sufferer of Arthritis I have found my symptoms are milder when I have Asparagus in my diet.