Asparagus botanically known as Asparagus officinalis is a spring vegetable, a flowering perennial plant species in the genus Asparagus. It is classified into the lily family like its cousins, onions and garlic. Asparagus is native to most of Europe, northern Africa and Western Asia and widely cultivated as a vegetable crop.
Asparagus is not extensively used in Indian cuisine and hardly eaten by many Indians. There are approximately about 300 varieties of asparagus where only 20 of them are said to be edible. Asparagus has a fleshy spears topped with bud-like compact heads and is often thought as a luxury vegetable, prized for its succulent taste and tender texture.
They are harvested in the spring when it is 6 to 8 inches tall. Green asparagus is the most common variety of asparagus; two other edible varieties are available. White asparagus, has more delicate flavor and tender texture, is grown underground to inhibit its development of chlorophyll content, therefore creating its distinctive white coloring.
It is generally found canned, although you may find it fresh in some select gourmet shops, and it is generally more expensive than the green variety since its production is more labor intensive. The other edible variety of asparagus is purple in color. It is much smaller than the green or white variety (usually just 2 to 3 inches tall) and features a fruitier flavor.
It also provides benefits from phytonutrients called anthocyanins that give it its purple color. With prolonged cooking, the purple color may disappear. For almost since 2000 years, asparagus has been prized as an epicurean delight and its medicinal properties.
Some of these species-like Asparagus officinalis - are widely cultivated and consumed as staple foods. Other species - like Asparagus racemosus, widely found in India and the Himalayas - have been used in a more medicinal context.
In the case of Asparagus racemosus, also known as Shatavari, there is a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine, especially in relationship to digestive problems. During the beginning days of 3000 B.C various species of asparagus were cultivated by Egyptian cultures and by European cultures including early Greek and Roman cultures.
Asparagus also became particularly popular in France during the 18th century during the rule of Louis XIV. In terms of commercial production, China (587,500 tons) and Peru (186,000 tons) are currently the world's largest producers and exporters of asparagus.
Next in line are the United States (102,780 tons) and Mexico (67,247 tons). Asparagus has been used from early times as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavor and diuretic properties. It was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter.
Asparagus is pictured on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC. France’s Louis XIV had special greenhouses built for growing it. It lost its popularity in the middle Ages, but returned to favour in the seventeenth century. It’s usually the tender young asparagus shoots that are commonly eaten.
Once the buds start to open, the shoots quickly turn woody and become strongly flavored. In India, Asparagus is known as Shatwar, Sootmooli, Musli in Hindi. Asparagus (Latin name, Asparagus adscendens) is found in the western Himalayas and Himachal Pradesh regions.
It is a sub-erect, prickly shrub with white tuberous roots. Branches are ascending, grooved and angled. Asparagus contains Zteroidal glycosides, palmitic acid and stearic acid. The tuberous roots are used as tonic and are useful in general debility.
Asparagus is considered to be the most delicious vegetables of the world. It’s a versatile vegetable and can be either roasted, steamed, grilled or eaten raw. This yummy vegetable is widely prepared during special occasions in many parts of the globe.
Moreover, this appetizing and fabulous vegetable is low on fat and calorie content, thus allowing every guest to enjoy the evening with full zeal. Preparing the asparagus differs from region to region. In Asian countries they are often stir fried and in United States it is often served stir fried with chicken, shrimp, and beef or wrapped in bacon.
It is a universally popular vegetable very popular among European and other Western countries. Asparagus tastes excellent when cooked fresh. Europeans prefer white asparagus (particularly the famous French asparagus of Argenteuil), which is grown underground to prevent it from becoming green.
Asparagus is the base of many yummy and mouth watering delicacy of the world. Many people prefer this vegetable across the world as it is easy to prepare. Asparagus is prepared in many ways as per their culture. Asparagus Swiss Quiche is one of the most widely prepared recipes of the western countries.
Although not a traditional vegetable in Indian cuisine, asparagus harmonizes beautifully with classic Indian spices which includes the cumin, ginger, garlic and red chiles. Cook for almost ten minutes, the aroma is capable of arousing your senses. An exotic stir fried vegetable. Asparagus also goes well with creamy mushroom.
Other popular recipes are the Cream of Asparagus soup, Asparagus tempura and brown rice with fresh asparagus. You can also add asparagus to any of your favorite salad. Asparagus is colorful and flavorful when added to omelets.
The asparagus shoots are well prepared in a number of ways and typically served as an appetizer or vegetable side dish. In Asian-style cooking, asparagus is often stir-fried with chicken in most of Cantonese restaurants. Asparagus may also be quickly grilled over charcoal or hardwood embers. It is also used as an ingredient in some stews and soups.
In the French style, it is often boiled or steamed and served with hollandaise sauce, melted butter or olive oil, Parmesan cheese or mayonnaise. Asparagus can also be pickled and stored for several years. Asparagus is low in calories and is very low in sodium.
It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, 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, the asparagus plant being rich in this compound. Nutrition studies have shown asparagus is a low-calorie source of folate and potassium. Its stalks are high in antioxidants.
Asparagus has long been recognized for its medicinal properties and therapeutic uses in herbal medicines. Asparagus is a useful companion plant for tomatoes. The tomato plant repels the asparagus beetle, as do several other common companion plants of tomatoes.
Meanwhile, asparagus may repel some harmful root nematodes that affect tomato plants The nutritional values of Asparagus per 100 g (3.5 oz) are: Energy 20 kcal: 90 kJ Carbohydrates: 3.88 g Sugars: 1.88 g Dietary fiber: 2.1 g Fat: 0.12 g Protein: 2.20 g Thiamin (Vit. B1): 0.143 mg Riboflavin (Vit. B2): 0.141 mg Niacin (Vit. B3): 0.978 mg Pantothenic acid (B5): 0.274 mg Vitamin B6: 0.091 mg Folate (Vit. B9): 52 μg Vitamin C: 5.6 mg Calcium: 24 mg Iron: 2.14 mg Magnesium: 14 mg Phosphorus: 52 mg Potassium: 202 mg Zinc: 0.54 mg Manganese: 0.158 mg.