by Keith Davis
With February comes the beginning of the ideas that spring will soon be here. Even though the groundhog did see its shadow, the somewhat higher than average temperatures brings the idea that spring is just around the corner. It makes me think of the garden that I will plant, and the foraging adventures that will take place, the walks in the outdoors that I will enjoy. It also gives me a chance to reflect and read, and I came across a project that I did a few years back about seasonal ingredients. So with no foraging trips, I thought this might be of interest.
Asparagus. A vegetable that everyone knows, right? But do you? Do you know the real facts about asparagus?
- It is a member of the Lily family, related to onions, leeks, and garlic.
- It has been cultivated for over 2,500 years
- Is planted 3 years before it is harvested
- If well cared for, the plant can produce up to 15 years.
- Spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot or more in sandy soil.
- Peak season is April through late June.
- In ideal conditions, asparagus can grow 10 inches in 24 hours.
- California produces about 70% of the domestic asparagus. Washington, Michigan, and New Jersey the rest.
- China outdoes the world in asparagus production by far, with Peru, and Germany next. The United States is Fifth.
- Originated from the East Mediterranean area. The name Asparagus comes from Greek, meaning sprout or shoot.
- The ancient Romans were the first to preserve asparagus by freezing, and created the first “how-to-grow directions for it.
- Diederik Leertouwer came to New England from the Netherlands in 1784 to promote trade between the states and his homeland. He is the first person to import and grow asparagus in America.
- Asparagus has a long history of being a valued and loved vegetable, and was called the “Food of Kings” in the 16th century.
- The larger diameter, the better the quality.
- White asparagus comes from the same plant as the green asparagus. When the spears emerge from the ground, the sunlight turns the stalks green. The get white asparagus, dirt is piled on top of the plants so the stalks can grow underground. When the tip breaks the surface, it is cut. It is considered one of the most labor intensive vegetables to grow.
- Green asparagus is more nutritious than white asparagus, having twice as many nutrients.
- Purple asparagus is a genetic variety, but reverts to green when cooked.
- Asparagus plants exhibit sexual differentiation, with the male plants being more productive and thus commercially grown.
- Everyone’s pee will smell after digesting asparagus. The green stalks contain asparagusic acid, among other compounds, that give urine a unique sulfurous odor after digestion. Though some people have a condition called “specific anosmia”, which genetically gives them the inability to smell certain odors.
For nutritional information:
For some great recipes: