Asparagus is a perennial plant that produces tasty shoots in spring that are harvested as a vegetable. It’s native to a large area encompassing Europe and western temperate Asia.
There are many varieties, but you will probably only know one or two from the supermarket. If you have a garden you can grow your own easily.
Asparagus is generally steamed or baked.
Here are just a couple of varieties. The purple one (Purple Passion), and green (Argenteuil)
Purple asparagus are pretty sweet and very tender, and should be eaten raw.
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Comes in many varieties
Generally, there isn't much difference between varieties, though some grow bigger spears than others. Purple varieties tend to be sweeter and tenderer so are best eaten raw, as they are, or chopped in salads Green varieties can be eaten raw or cooked.
Some common varieties:
- Purple Passion. A sweet, purple variety. Lovely eaten raw. Medium sized spears.
- Argenteuil. Old heritage variety from France. Very big and tender spears with purplish scales.
- Mary Washington. An old and popular variety. Still used on some commercial farms
- Fat Bastard. I suspect that this is Argenteuil renamed.
- Sweet Purple. Commercial hybrid variety with purple spears.
Asparagus ins't particularly high in nutrients, so are eaten with other ingredients.
They are mostly water, but do contain small amounts of most vitamins, as well as calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It does contain a good amount of dietary fibre though.
Favourite asparagus recipes
Some of the most popular recipes that asparagus is used for include:
- Stir fries
Asparagus doesn't need much preparation. Just snap off the bottom, it should snap cleanly where the soft stem meets the tougher base.
Give a rinse and you're ready to go.
Asparagus is well known for containing a compound that gives urine a sulphurous smell, though not everyone can smell it.
In some countries the shoots are covered so the lack of light causes them to grow white. The extra work involved in growing white asparagus makes it quite expensive.
Asparagus comes in male and female plants. The males produce fewer, but bigger spears, and the females many, thinner spears.