Asparagus is also known as garden asparagus. it is the young tender shoot that is usually cherished as a culinary delight and consumed as a delicious vegetable.
It is a perennial crop that is somewhat related to onions and garlic though they are classified into different families. They are believed to originate from Europe, especially in the areas around the Mediterranean and western Asia areas.
The asparagus spears are the young shoots that have grown to about 100 to 150 cm tall. It bears needle-like scale leaves. It has bell-shaped flowers. The plant also produces a small red berry fruit reaching about 1 cm in diameter.
The world’s major producers of asparagus include China, Europe, Peru, Mexico, Australia, and the USA. Asparagus is best harvested before the flower buds open. When this happens the shoot tends to get a woody texture.
The highly desired pale shoots are made when the soil is heaped around the shoots during germination to block sunlight and prevent photosynthesis.
One should purchase tender, firm, dark green/purple shoots. The tips should be firm and closed. There should be no signs of bruises, cuts, mold, or soft mushy areas. Dull-colored shoots should also be avoided as this indicates shoots that have overstayed.
During the Spring seasons, the spears are at their best even though you can still find asparagus throughout the year in the markets. Asparagus loses flavor quickly after harvest and therefore should be consumed as quickly as possible.
How to Prepare Asparagus for Consumption
The spears should be washed in cool running water to remove pesticide residue, soil, and dirt. They can then be cooked usually by steaming or boiling. Thicker shoots may need to be peeled before cooking.
Tender shoots can be eaten raw. You can also steam, boil, stir-fry, sauté or braise them among other cooking methods. These shoots can be eaten on their own or mixed with other vegetables, lentils, beans, meat, poultry, or seafood.
Popular serving methods include topping steamed shoots with hollandaise sauce, butter, or cheese. Other garnishes for asparagus include sesame seeds and macadamia nuts. popular seasonings include onions, garlic, ginger, and black pepper.
Asparagus contains just 20 calories per 100 grams. It is low in carbohydrates and proteins but comes with moderate amounts of dietary fiber. The spears are rich in vitamins and minerals.
This vegetable is a good source of B-complex vitamins including folates, riboflavin, and thiamin. Others that can be found in this vegetable include niacin, pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine.
Spears are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E. It is also a great source of vitamin K. As for minerals it is a rich source of copper, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Also in lesser amounts are selenium and zinc.