What are Asparagus?
Asparagus, scientifically known as Asparagus officinalis, belongs to the family of lilies and is valued for its therapeutic properties. It is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘sprout’ and about 300 different species of this sprout exist all over the world.
It is available in white, green, and purple colors. White asparagus is grown away from the sunlight and hence, is deficient of the green pigment, chlorophyll. The purple one is loaded with phytochemicals and anthocyanins which provide the unique color to the vegetable.
The medicinal effect of this plant extends from its root to shoot and its usage has been tested and proven in scientific as well as indigenous systems of medicine like Siddha, Ayurveda, and Unani. The health benefits of asparagus include good cardiovascular health, healthy pregnancy, improved fertility, relief from pre-menstrual syndrome, and an improved bone health. It helps to treat cancer, diabetes, hangover, cataract, rheumatism, tuberculosis, depression, neuro-degenerative diseases, and convulsions. It reduces urinary tract infections and blood cholesterol. It is also good for digestive health.
Asparagus is rich in vitamins A, C, E, K, folic acid, iron and potassium. The health benefits of asparagus include heart health, foetal development, strengthens bones, aids in digestion, reduces cancer risk among others.
History Of Asparagus
Asparagus has been used as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavour, diuretic properties, and more. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC. In ancient times, it was also known in Syria and in Spain. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season, and dried the vegetable for use in winter; Roman Epicureans even froze it high in the Alps, for the Feast of Epicurus. Emperor Augustus created the “Asparagus Fleet” for hauling the vegetable, and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” for quick action. A recipe for cooking asparagus is in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’s third-century AD De re coquinaria, Book III.
The ancient Greek physician Galen (prominent among the Romans) mentioned asparagus as a beneficial herb during the second century AD, but after the Roman empire ended, asparagus drew little medieval attention. until al-Nafzawi’s The Perfumed Garden. That piece of writing celebrates its (scientifically unconfirmed) aphrodisiacal power, a supposed virtue that the Indian Ananga Ranga attributes to “special phosphorus elements” that also counteract fatigue. By 1469, asparagus was cultivated in French monasteries. Asparagus appears to have been hardly noticed in England until 1538, and in Germany until 1542.
The finest texture and the strongest and yet most delicate taste is in the tips. The points d’amour (“love tips”) were served as a delicacy to Madame de Pompadour. Asparagus became available to the New World around 1850, in the United States.
Asparagus is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and essential proteins. It is rich in vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), and vitamin K (phylloquinone).
The mineral treasures that are stored in it include iron, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, and potassium. Asparagus contains a very low amount of calories with no cholesterol and is low in sodium as well. Along with this, it is also a rich source of dietary fiber, which is essential for the body.
Amount Per 100 grams
- Calories 20
- Fat 0.1 g
- Cholesterol 0 mg
- Sodium 2 mg
- Potassium 202 mg -5% RDA
- Carbohydrate 3.9 g – 1% RDA
- Dietary fiber 2.1 g – 8% RDA
- Sugar 1.9 g
- Protein 2.2 g – 4% RDA
- Vitamin A 15% RDA
- Vitamin C 9% RDA
- Calcium 2% RDA
- Iron 11% RDA
- Vitamin B-6 5% RDA
- Magnesium 3% RDA
It contains vitamin E
Asparagus is also a source of vitamin E, another important antioxidant. This vitamin helps strengthen your immune system and protects cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. To fill up on its benefits, roast asparagus with a little olive oil: “Our body absorbs vitamin E better if it’s eaten alongside some fat,” says Gans. “And when you cook it with olive oil, you’re getting healthy fat and vitamin E.”
It’s a rich source of folic acid
Four asparagus spears contain 22% of your recommended daily allowance of folic acid. “Folic acid is essential for women who are planning on getting pregnant, since it can help protect against neural tube defect,” says Gans. One 2009 study published in PLoS Medicine found that folic acid supplements help reduce risk of premature birth by 50% when taken for at least a year before conception compared with women who didn’t take additional folic acid.
It’s filled with vitamin K
Along with other green, leafy vegetables, asparagus is a good source of vitamin K. The vitamin is crucial for coagulation (which helps your body stop bleeding after a cut) as well as bone health. “Most people think of calcium for healthy bones, but vitamin K is also important,” says Gans. “It can actually help your body absorb calcium.”
It boosts your mood
Asparagus is full of folate, a B vitamin that could lift your spirits and help ward off irritability. Researchers have found a connection between low levels of folate and vitamin B12 in people who are suffering from depression, leading some docs to prescribe daily doses of both vitamins to patients with depression. Asparagus also contains high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that has been similarly linked to improved mood.
Amazing Health Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus contain vitamin K which helps improve bone health by increasing the bone mineral density and help reduce osteoporosis.
2. Aids in digestion
Asparagus has both soluble and insoluble fiber which helps to improve digestion because it moves food through the gut. Soluble fiber dissolves in our bodies into a gluey mass that works to trap fat, sugars, bacteria and toxins, and move them out of the body. Because soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, it slows our digestion.
Asparagus contain inulin which does not break down in the digestive tract. Instead, it passes undigested to our large intestines, where it becomes a food source for good and healthy bacteria. Good bacteria are responsible for better nutrient absorption, a lower risk of allergies, and a lower risk of colon cancer
3. Reduces Cancer Risk
Asparagus is rich in glutathione which is a detoxifying compound that can help destroy carcinogens. Glutathione plays a crucial role in immune function. This means that asparagus may help fight or protect against certain cancers, including bone, breast, lung and colon cancers.
4. Heart Health
B vitamins present in asparagus play a key role in regulating homocysteine, which is an amino acid that can lead to heart disease if it reaches excessive levels in the blood.
5. Helps with foetal development
Asparagus are rich in folate which can decrease the risk of neural-tube defects in fetuses. Folate works along with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to help the body break down, use and create new proteins. Folate helps form red blood cells and produce DNA, the building block of the human body, which carries genetic information.
6. Skin Care
Asparagus has glutathione which is an antioxidant which slows down the aging process and break down free radicals. It can also protect the skin from sun damage and pollution.
7. It’s a natural diuretic
It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.
8. Aids in weight loss
Asparagus are low in fat and calories. They contains soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber is digested slowly and gives a feeling of being full between meals thereby reducing snacking and over eating.
9. Lower risk of depression
Folate may reduce the risk of depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body. Homocysteine can block blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Too much homocysteine may also interfere with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These hormones regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
10. Prevents Anemia
Asparagus are rich in iron which helps in the formation of hemoglobin. Anemia occurs as a result of decreased level of hemoglobin in the red blood cells.
11. It may keep your urinary tract happy
Asparagus contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, making it a natural diuretic. In other words, eating more of the spears can help flush excess fluid and salt from your body, which may help prevent urinary tract infections.
“When women are not urinating enough, they can get a UTI,” explains Gans. It’s possible that a diet rich in asparagus could prevent these painful infections from developing, since going to the bathroom more frequently can help move bad bacteria out of the urinary tract.
12. It’s full of antioxidants
Asparagus—purple asparagus in particular—is full of anthocyanins, which give fruits and veggies their red, blue, and purple hues and have antioxidant effects that could help your body fight damaging free radicals. When preparing asparagus, try not to either overcook or undercook it. Although cooking the veggie helps activate its cancer-fighting potential, letting it boil or sauté for too long can negate some nutritional benefits. “Overcooking asparagus could cause the vitamins to leech out into the water,” says Gans.
13. It may help you get in the mood
You may want to consider adding asparagus to your next date night menu: the veggie is a natural aphrodisiac thanks to vitamin B6 and folate, which can help boost feelings of arousal. Plus, vitamin E stimulates sex hormones, including estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
14. It can ease a hangover
If you crave a greasy breakfast the morning after too many drinks, research suggests that a side of asparagus might be the better choice. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Science conducted on laboratory-grown cells suggested that the minerals and amino acids in asparagus extract may help ease hangovers and protect liver cells from the toxins in alcohol.
15. It beats bloating
When it comes to fighting bloat, asparagus packs a mean punch. The veggie helps promote overall digestive health (another benefit of all that soluble and insoluble fiber!). And thanks to prebiotics—carbohydrates that can’t be digested and help encourage a healthy balance of good bacteria, or probiotics, in your digestive track—it can also reduce gas. Plus, as a natural diuretic, asparagus helps flush excess liquid, combating belly bulge.
16. Maintains Homocysteine Level
Asparagus is rich in B vitamins that help in maintaining healthy levels of homocysteine, which is produced in the blood when an amino acid (methionine) breaks down in the body. Vitamin B, especially folate, B6, and B12 play a key role in converting homocysteine into cysteine, which then gets converted back to methionine as per the normal methylation cycle.
A deficiency of vitamin B in the body can elevate the levels of homocysteine and increase the risk of damage to blood vessels, venous thrombosis in which clotting of blood happens in the veins, atherosclerosis, and other cardiac disorders. In addition to this, vitamin B helps in maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar by ensuring proper metabolism of starches and sugars in the body.
17. Helps in Pregnancy
The high folate content in asparagus aids in reducing the danger of low birth weight and birth defects during pregnancy. Folate is essential for the growth of the fetus. It also helps in reducing the complication of edema or retention of water in the body tissues owing to its diuretic effect.
18. Fights PMS
An asparagus extract can be used effectively for easing pre-menstrual bloating. The presence of essential nutrients helps to combat depression and fatigue, as well as reduce menstrual cramps. It also helps in controlling blood loss and maintaining hormonal balance during menstruation.
19. Improves Fertility
The root of asparagus racemosus is widely appreciated in Ayurvedic therapy and is famously known as Shatavari, which means ‘one who has 100 husbands’. Shatavari has aphrodisiac properties and is used to regulate the hormones and cure male and female sexual disorders. It has anti-anxiety properties and helps in curing physical and mental debility in males. It also helps in enhancing the libido and boosts sperm count and its motility. In females, asparagus has been proven to be effective in menopausal syndrome and anemia. Shatavari has been trusted as a galactagogue and is also valued for its effectiveness in improving the quality and quantity of the breast milk while boosting the appetite of nursing women. Research studies conducted on animals have demonstrated positive effects on the genitals and the mammary glands of the female subjects who consumed adequate amounts of asparagus.
20. Fights Tumor
Asparagus racemosus, or wild asparagus, contains a certain variety of phytonutrients known as saponins. Studies have demonstrated that the saponins obtained from it possess anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Along with the chemo-preventive efficiency, it also helps in elevating the levels of glutathione, an antioxidant and detoxifying compound. It also helps in the prevention of many diseases like HIV, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, anemia, cancer, diabetes, and various cardiac disorders.
21. Controls Diabetes
The anti-inflammatory nutrients present in asparagus help in reducing the risk of chronic health ailments, including type 2 diabetes. This beneficial effect is also attributed to the presence of the mineral chromium, which plays a vital role in regulating the blood sugar levels of the body. Studies conducted in this regard have shown significant results and have proven that it helps in keeping a check on blood sugar levels, improves insulin secretion, and provides an anti-diabetic effect.
22. Cures Hangovers
Asparagus extract contains essential amino acids that may prove effective in curing hangovers. A hangover refers to the unpleasant physiological effect caused due to substantial consumption of alcoholic drinks. Its symptoms include anxiety, fatigue, and stomach disorders like nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. Research studies have demonstrated that the leaves and shoots of asparagus contain a good amount of inorganic mineral content, which also aids in the protection of the liver cells from the toxic effects of alcohol.
23. Treats Rheumatism
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the joints. Studies have shown that the consumption of folate-rich food like asparagus, which also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, may help to relieve the pain and ease the overall poor functioning in the body associated with arthritis.
24. Rich in Rutin
Asparagus is also a rich source of rutin, a flavonoid that possesses anti-inflammatory properties and is used to treat hemorrhoids and prevent clotting of blood. It enhances the permeability of capillaries, strengthens the blood vessels, and protects them from becoming fragile. Rutin also prevents the hardening of arteries by reducing the viscosity of blood and helps in easing hypertension, reducing cholesterol, and maintaining cardiovascular health.
25. Treats Tuberculosis
Asparagus racemosus is also known for its effectiveness in curing bronchitis and tuberculosis. It improves the functioning of lung tissues and helps in treating throat infections as well.
26. Treats Neuro-degenerative Diseases
Studies have provided evidence that asparagus racemosus is effective in treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases. These beneficial effects are attributed to the presence of phytoestrogens in it that have certain neuroprotective effects. Neurodegenerative diseases are genetic or periodic conditions affecting the neurons of the human brain and the body does not normally have the ability to replace the damaged neurons.
27. Relieves Depression
Scientific research has shown the efficacy of asparagus racemosus as an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drug. It helps in enhancing the memory, increases the production, and secretion of estrogen, and has a revitalizing and calming effect on the nervous system.
28. Cures Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that affects the brain and leads to recurrent convulsions or seizures. The brain transmits abnormal signals as a result of irreversible changes in the brain tissues. The roots of asparagus racemosus can be used as an anti-epileptic for curing the symptoms of epilepsy.
29. Treats Urinary Tract Infections
Research studies show that asparagus racemosus possess anti-urolithiatic effect, which helps to cure urinary tract infections. Due to the vegetable’s diuretic properties, consumption of asparagus increases the frequency and volume of urination. This helps to detoxify and flush the toxic waste out of the body. According to research, the anti urolithiatic effect can be attributed to the presence of antioxidants and essential vitamins C and E.
It is also known to give a peculiar, pungent smell to the urine, which is completely normal. This is because asparagus breaks down its constituents of ammonia and sulfur into volatile chemical compounds that actually help the body to detoxify.
30. Maintains Blood Cholesterol Level
Studies have supported the fact that the wealth of anti-oxidants in asparagus have the potential to treat oxidative stress, along with other disorders such as hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia.These diseases indicate the presence of high fat and cholesterol content in the body, which can further pose a major threat for fatal conditions like cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerosis.
31. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Antioxidants are amazing. They neutralize the free radicals in our body and prevent a range of harmful effects, including inflammation. Asparagus helps fight against such problems as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases, and the antioxidant glutathione in asparagus slows down aging. It protects skin from inflammation through UV radiation or pollutants in the environment.
Purple asparagus in particular is full of anthocyanins, which reduce toxic elements in the skin and keep it free from sun damage.
32. Destroys Carcinogens
Cancer is a difficult disease to combat, and it seems to be becoming more and more common. It helps to understand that free radicals may be the cause behind many cancers, and antioxidants can help prevent them. The sulfur in glutathione found in asparagus can destroy carcinogens in the body and recycle antioxidants.
It is particularly efficient in immunizing against varieties of bone, breast, lung, pancreatic, cervical, and colon cancers. Since inflammation and chronic oxidative stress often cause cancer, the anti-inflammatory benefits of asparagus can be a great way to ward it off. Folate also protects against harmful and rapid mutation and contributes to preventing cancer. Remember that prevention is better than a cure.
33. Kidney Stone Prevention
If you have uric acid kidney stones, you may have been told to stay away from asparagus. That is sound advice, since asparagus may lead to your urine being too acidic and worsen your situation. If you aren’t suffering from uric acid kidney stones, however, and want to prevent kidney stones in general, asparagus is a great choice. It can flush out superfluous salt and fluids from your body as well as toxins in the kidneys, which can help prevent kidney stones from forming.
Asparagus also contains vitamin B6, which decreases urinary oxalate production, a factor behind calcium oxalate kidney stone production. A study conducted over fourteen years has shown an inverse relationship between consumption of vitamin B6 and formation of kidney stones.
34. Eye Health
B vitamins are great for your eyes. A study has revealed that vitamin B therapy, which includes intake of folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12—all present in asparagus—can help prevent age-related macular degeneration. The control group placebo in the trial was shown to have a higher incidence of the deteriorative eye disease. Asparagus also has vitamins A and C, which are rich antioxidants that can prevent oxidative damage to the retina caused by free radicals in the body. This helps prevent cataracts from forming.
35. Controls Blood Pressure
Another great benefit of asparagus is that it helps control blood pressure. It contains magnesium, which has blood pressure–related properties. A highly representative study that used 241,378 participants showed that a diet rich in magnesium reduces chances of stroke by 8 percent.
Keep in mind that about half of all cases of stroke are caused by hypertension. Studies have shown that increasing consumption of calcium can effectively relieve high blood pressure. Calcium affects blood pressure through its other activities, such as muscle activity or changing the metabolism of electrolytes. Rutin has also been shown to ease hypertension.
36. Increases Cell Growth
In many developing countries, severe copper deficiencies affect the population. The negative effects can be seen in high rates of stunted growth and underdevelopment in malnourished children. Asparagus contains copper, which is needed for proper oxygenation of red blood cells.
These are transported all around the body, and without proper oxygenation, organs and other cells cannot develop adequately. Studies show that deficiency delays growth, slows metabolic activity, and leads to people being underweight with stunted height.
37. Fights Internal Bleeding
Internal bleeding can be extremely dangerous because the blood loss might prove fatal for your organs. To control it, you will need vitamin K. Asparagus has vitamin K and can help you get the protection you need. Vitamin K is known to reduce the threat of bleeding in the liver.
Similarly, it supports blood clotting, which is essential to stop bleeding, whether extraneous or internal. Newborns with hemorrhagic disorder are injected with this vitamin to promote blood clotting and prevent bleeding problems. Rutin, a flavonoid present in asparagus, delivers similar results.
38. Prevents Hearing Loss
As you grow older, your hearing may become weaker. Studies have shown that continued intake of folate and vitamin A can help reduce the chances of age-related hearing loss. Hearing loss has also been linked with reduced bone density for postmenopausal woman. By preventing loss of bone density, asparagus can also prevent hearing loss. Its antioxidant properties may also help prevent tinnitus, which is usually high-pitched continued ringing in the ear that is quite disturbing.
39. Muscle Health
Your muscles are vital to your overall health and fitness. Muscle pain or weakness will restrain you from performing your best in daily activities. Asparagus has compounds that can improve muscle health, and the magnesium in asparagus is especially effective at combating fibromyalgia, which is characterized by widespread pain in the muscular regions.
Increasing magnesium consumption has been shown to reduce pain and tenderness while improving immune blood markers. Calcium is involved in the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that control muscle movement and also regulate release of glucose into the bloodstream, which muscles need for energy.
40. Protects Thyroid Gland
Your thyroid gland is critical for maintaining your health. It is responsible for secreting thyroxin and other thyroid hormones, which control several important everyday bodily functions, such as appetite, sleep, and temperature. If your thyroid gland isn’t functioning properly and secretes too little or too much of its hormones, your body is adversely affected, for example, muscle weakness, irritability, fatigue, weight gain or loss, menstrual irregularity, trouble sleeping, and more.
Asparagus has selenium, a deficiency of which can lead to thyroid problems. It effectively protects the gland, regulating production of oxygen within it and warding off harmful disease-causing antibodies.
How to Buy and Store Asparagus
You may be unsure about the best way to buy and preserve asparagus. You don’t want to have to go to the store and buy it just to find that it isn’t the elegant, delicious kind that Caesar Augustus so loved. Nor do you want your money and expectations to go to waste because it went bad. Here are some valuable tips to make sure you do it right:
How to Choose Asparagus
When you’re at the market trying to decide which type of asparagus will give you the best taste and benefits, you should keep in mind a few particular indicators. Asparagus has a short shelf life, so you want to select the freshest kind available. Take a close look at all the sprouts so that you know how they look and feel.
If the asparagus is straight, plump, and firm, that it is a good sign. Avoid those that easily bend without splitting. The tips of asparagus shoots should be firmly closed and have a dark green or purplish hue. Dry tips or a yellow tinge indicate it has aged or isn’t the best quality.
Don’t choose those that are withered, mottled, or blemished. Stay away from plants with flowers, which is a sign that it is past its optimal level of freshness. If the ends of your stalks are dry or cracked, keep looking. Moisture should be evident in the stalks.
Whether you want thin asparagus stems or the fatter kinds depends on how you like it: thin spears are generally sweeter and tender, while thicker ones are meatier and have a more concentrated asparagus taste. Thin ones may look better when plated up, but if you’re paying the same for each bunch, the larger ones will give you more food. Know which kind of asparagus you want to buy.
The green ones are generally the most common and fibrous; the purple ones have high antioxidant levels, low fiber content, and are sweeter; the white ones are more or less the same as the green ones except they are lower in nutritional content because they don’t go through photosynthesis and are more expensive because they are much more difficult to produce.
How to Store Asparagus
How do you retain its freshness?
You might have thought that since it is a dry vegetable it can be stored outside or in the pantry, but since it loses its freshness relatively fast, the best idea is to store it in a refrigerator so that it remains good for a few days. An even better idea is to wrap it in loose plastic before storing. To further retain freshness, trim off the ends of the asparagus shoots and then refrigerate it.
You can help it keep its moisture by wetting paper towels and covering the ends with it. A similar technique that will last up to a week is cutting off an inch from the bottom and immersing it in a cup of water before covering and refrigerating it. The water might turn murky after a while; if this happens, you should replace it. Asparagus can also be preserved.
It might not be possible to keep it 100 percent fresh, but it can still taste quite good and be nutritious. To freeze it, first blanch it in salt water or citrus juice. Spread it on a tray and refrigerate for half an hour, after which you can drain the excess liquid and place the frozen asparagus in freeze-safe containers. To dry it, cut off the edges and then divide the asparagus into 1″ pieces so that it dries evenly.
Steam-blanch them for around three or four minutes, and use dehydrator trays to dry them. You may also want to consider oven-drying it. You always have the option of salting, pickling, canning, or lacto-fermenting asparagus too. These methods won’t give you the original asparagus taste, but they’re close enough and might be worth a try!
How to Clean Asparagus
Before you cook asparagus, you want to make sure you’ve properly cleaned your asparagus sprouts. They are usually free of pesticides, but there is always the danger of grit and other bacteria entering your body if you don’t clean them well. First, rinse it under clean and cool water until all the dirt is washed off.
Break off the dry ends from the main stalk. Then use kitchen towels to dry them.If your asparagus has a thick and tough outer layer that you don’t like, peel it off.
How to Incorporate More Asparagus Into Your Diet
If you’ve tried asparagus but did not enjoy it, it probably wasn’t cooked properly. Few things are worse than soggy, overcooked, or unseasoned asparagus, but you can do it correctly, and that can lead to asparagus becoming a favorite. One common mistake to avoid is not getting the correct size of asparagus.
Although you should be more concerned about quality than size, you should be well aware than thinner varieties are easy to overcook, while thicker ones may be woody in texture and less flavorful. Try to get medium-sized stalks for the best combination; if you can’t, use the thinner asparagus in a raw dish so that you don’t overcook it, and roast, sear, or grill the thicker asparagus to maintain maximum flavor.
Don’t bother peeling asparagus. Most of the stalk, except for the ends, is edible and contributes to the flavor. Unless your asparagus is really thick and has a tough outer layer, don’t waste time peeling the outside. That will just reduce the portion of asparagus you have left to cook with. If you don’t have to snap off the ends of each asparagus with your hands, do one and chop off the same length in all the others from the same lot.
Since bland asparagus is just horrible to taste, blanch them before cooking. This not only adds flavor but also ensures that it’s cooked well, but you don’t want your asparagus to keep cooking after you’ve finished blanching it. To avoid that, dip it in cold water. That will shock the asparagus and stop the cooking process and keep it crispy.
Raw asparagus can be delicious, too, but people often prepare it too far in advance, which creates a weird chewy taste. To keep it fresh, either chop or peel right before eating, or store it in cool water in the refrigerator. Asparagus is a versatile dish, and you can incorporate it into your diet in many ways. You can have it for breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner. You can even snack on asparagus between meals.
Asparagus is usually only available during the spring, so take full advantage of that, and use it in as many of your dishes as possible! You can cook it in the oven, on a grill, in a pan, in the fryer, have it in a soup, or eat it raw. Make a conscious effort to buy and eat more asparagus. When you dine in restaurants, try to choose healthy dishes containing asparagus.
Make sure you know the best way of cooking no matter which method you choose to use so that your taste buds approve, and you are encouraged to eat more of it. Since there are so many different ways of having it, shake things up, and keep it interesting for your palette. You won’t tire of asparagus after a few meals and will want to keep eating it. You will like it for the taste, and your body and brain will definitely respond positively!
Simple Recipes Of Asparagus
Asparagus is a lovely vegetable to cook with. As mentioned above, it can be prepared in numerous ways. If you don’t have too much experience with it and want something time friendly and simple, here are some easy recipes. Keep in mind all the tips outlined above before you begin.
- One bunch of thin asparagus with trimmed edges
- Three tablespoons of olive oil
- One teaspoon of sea salt
- Half a teaspoon of ground black pepper
The following three ingredients are optional, but you can add them according to your taste to enhance flavor:
- One tablespoon of lemon juice
- One clove of minced garlic
- One and a half spoons of grated cheese, preferably Parmesan
- First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit or 220 degrees Celsius so that it is perfect for roasting your asparagus.
- This preparation will take only about ten minutes.
- Place your asparagus into a mixing bowl, and drizzle the olive oil from above.
- Toss it around to coat all parts of the spears.
- Then add the rest of the ingredients: salt, pepper, and garlic, and cheese if you wish.
- Take out the oven tray and place the asparagus carefully without overlapping.
- Depending on how thick the stalks are, bake for twelve to fifteen minutes in the oven.
- Take it out, sprinkle some lemon juice, and voila!
Breakfast Asparagus and Eggs
This is a very easy recipe for when you’re running late and need to throw together a quick breakfast.
- Five or six stalks of asparagus
- One teaspoon of olive oil
- One-quarter teaspoon of salt
- Two eggs
- Some pepper to top
- One-quarter cup of cheese (goat, blue, Parmesan, mozzarella, or cheddar)
- First, remove the woody bottoms of the asparagus.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat, and drizzle the olive oil.
- Then add the asparagus and salt.
- You will need to shake the skillet to nicely coat and season the asparagus.
- It needs to be cooked for around four or five minutes to become tender.
- Once that is done, spread the asparagus evenly on the pan, and crack the eggs on top.
- Sprinkle the cheese, too, if you prefer, reduce the heat, and cover it.
- It will take around eight to twelve minutes for the eggs to be done.
- Add fresh pepper on top before serving.
- It works really well with a piece of crunchy, toasted bread.
Grilled Asparagus in Dill Butter
This is another easy-to-follow recipe and makes a great side dish for brunch or lunch or even dinner.
- One pound of asparagus spears
- Two tablespoons of melted butter
- One tablespoon of fresh dill (or else one teaspoon of dried dill)
- One clove of minced garlic
- One-quarter teaspoon of cracked black pepper
- Finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- To begin, break off and throw away the woody edges.
- Place the asparagus in a mixing bowl, and add butter, dill, garlic, and pepper.
- Toss it well to coat and season all sides of the asparagus.
- If you have a charcoal grill, place the asparagus over medium charcoal without covering.
- If you have a gas grill, preheat it before bringing it down to medium heat.
- Grill for around seven to ten minutes depending on the size.
- Make sure to turn it from time to time to grill it evenly.
- Place on a serving dish when done, and sprinkle the cheese on top.
That’s all there is to it!
- Two pounds of asparagus
- The light-colored parts of two leeks, chopped
- One big russet potato, peeled
- Two quarts of low-sodium chicken stock
- One finely diced medium-sized onion
- Three cloves of diced garlic
- Four ounces of fresh baby spinach leaves
- Twenty fresh basil leaves
- One-quarter cup of heavy cream
- Two tablespoons of olive oil
- Two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- Salt and ground white pepper for taste
You may be overwhelmed by the list of ingredients, but you can easily find all these at home, and the directions are quite simple.
- The nice thing about this recipe is that you don’t have to throw away the edges.
- Trim your asparagus stalks, place the woody ends with the chicken stock, and bring it to a boil.
- Then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for ten minutes.
- Then remove the pan, and throw away the stems.
- In another pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the leeks, garlic, and onion with the salt and pepper.
- Then add the diced potato and the stock, and keep it under heat until the potatoes cook.
- Then add the rest of the asparagus, and cook it for around five minutes.
- Then add the basil and spinach leaves, and add cream and more salt and pepper after a minute.
- Remove it from heat and use a mixer, food processor, or blender to finish the soup.
- Pass it through a fine sieve.
- Serve it hot, or chill it in ice water.
- You can add cream for added flavor.
Culinary Uses of Asparagus
Asparagus has a delicate flavor and can be eaten raw, grilled or roasted. It can be added as an ingredient to pickles, salad recipes, and soups. The shoots of this plant are relished as an appetizer and are prepared in different ways around the world. It requires minimal cooking, which gave birth to a famous Roman saying, “As quick as cooking asparagus”, for anything that has to be done quickly.
How Asparagus Grows
Asparagus seeds need three years to sprout and be ready for harvesting. Once that’s finished, the same plants can be cropped each spring for fifteen to twenty years. Having originated in a maritime environment, it thrives in sandy soil with high salinity. While other plants wouldn’t be able to survive the salt concentration, asparagus breezes right through it! Farmers usually begin very early in spring, sometimes as early as February in some regions. Usually, one-year-old plants or “crowns” are used after the initial harvest.
The bed is first created by removing weeds and adding compost, manure, and soil. Trenches six to twelve inches deep are then dug, and the crowns are placed with a distance of fifteen inches or so between them. The trench is then covered, another layer of mulch is added, and it is watered regularly until it grows to the height the farmer wants.
The harvest period lasts two to three weeks and may happen every day during that time if the weather favors it! Farmers may choose to selectively breed asparagus to be thicker and meatier or to produce the purple variety. They may even choose to produce white asparagus, which isn’t chemically altered but is produced without the presence of sunlight.
Interesting Facts Of Asparagus
- While the word “asparagus” might immediately bring to mind an image of a green vegetable, it actually also comes in less common white and purple colors! White asparagus is grown underground or under plastic domes, and the lack of chlorophyll gives it its shade. Purple asparagus is naturally grown, and has a fruity flavor that is often enjoyed raw.
- A study has shown that chickens are incredibly effective at farming asparagus! They can drastically reduce weed growth without damaging the crops.
- Asparagus, coming from the salty Mediterranean basins, can tolerate high levels of soil salinity, which is why farmers once used sea salt as a herbicide.
- China farms the most asparagus in the world—at least 57,000 hectares. Meanwhile, Peru, the second-largest producer with 27,000 hectares, exports the most asparagus—around 50 percent.
- Asparagus has been important in European culture and can be found in some works of art dating as far back as 1580!
- When it’s really hot outside, asparagus can grow up to seven inches in a single day. They’re cut every day during harvest period.
- California produces the most asparagus—about 70 percent—in the United States. Stockton City, California, dedicates the entire month of April to celebrating asparagus.
- The asparagus you find in the market usually comes from male plants. When planted, half of the resultant shoots are male and half female. Flowers vary in appearance, and female plants also grow a red berry. Farmers prefer male plants because of their productivity.
- Asparagus is actually part of the lily family! Liliaceae is one of the largest plant families and includes onions, leeks, garlic, gladioli, chives, and turnips.
- In Schrobenhausen, Bavaria, in Germany, an entire museum is dedicated to asparagus! The European Asparagus Museum (Europäisches Spargelmuseum in German) has everything you might want to know about asparagus, from its history to its cultivation and beyond.
- The asparagusic acid in asparagus is converted to compounds containing sulfur, which then gives your urine a pungent odor, although not everyone can smell it.
- Cultivating white asparagus requires considerable work, as it is one of the most labor-intensive vegetables to grow, since each spear is handpicked as soon as the tips emerge from the soil. It has to be clipped at the base and then immediately placed in a dark container to preserve its iridescent color.
How To Grow Asparagus
Beloved for its delicious young shoots, asparagus is one of the first crops of spring harvest. Growing asparagus is a boon to your health too, as this perennial vegetable is rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. And it just so happens that fresh-picked spears are far more tender and tasty than store-bought asparagus.
Asparagus thrives in any area having winter ground freezes or dry seasons. In fact, the mild, wet regions of Florida and the Gulf Coast are about the only places where it’s difficult to grow asparagus. Here’s everything you need to know about growing asparagus, whether you start from seed or spear.
(On just a quarter-acre of land, you can produce fresh, organic food for a family of four—year-round. Rodale’s The Backyard Homestead shows you how; get your copy today!)
Select and prepare your asparagus bed with care—this crop will occupy the same spot for 20 years or more. It can tolerate some shade, but full sun produces more vigorous plants and helps minimize disease. Asparagus does best in lighter soils that warm up quickly in spring and drain well; standing water will quickly rot the roots. Prepare a planting bed for your asparagus, like this simple raised bed, that’s about 4 feet wide by removing all perennial weeds and roots and digging in plenty of aged manure or compost. (Here’s everything you need to know to finally start composting.)
Asparagus plants are monoecious—meaning each individual asparagus plant is either male or female. Some varieties of asparagus, such as Jersey Knight and Jersey Giant, produce all male or primarily male plants, so they’re more productive—male plants yield more harvestable shoots because they don’t have to invest energy in producing seeds. Choose an all-male asparagus variety if high yield is your primary goal. If you like to experiment, you may also want to grow an heirloom asparagus variety or a purple-stalked variety like Purple Passion. With an all-male variety, 25 plants are usually adequate for a household of four; plant double that amount for standard varieties. (Ardent asparagus lovers recommend tripling these quantities.)
Starting asparagus from 1-year-old crowns gives you a year’s head start over seed-grown plants. Two-year-old crowns are usually not a bargain. They tend to suffer more from transplant shock and won’t produce any faster than 1-year-old crowns. Buy crowns from a reputable nursery that sells fresh, firm, disease-free roots. Plant them immediately if possible; otherwise, wrap them in slightly damp sphagnum moss until you are ready to plant.
To plant asparagus crowns, dig trenches 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep (8 inches in sandy soil) down the center of the prepared bed. Soak the crowns in compost tea for 20 minutes before planting. Place the crowns in the trenches 1½ to 2 feet apart; top them with 2 to 3 inches of soil. Two weeks later, add another inch or two of soil. Continue adding soil periodically until the soil is slightly mounded above surface level to allow for settling.
Apply mulch to smother weeds, which compete with the young spears and reduce yields. Carefully remove any weeds that do appear. Water regularly during the first 2 years after planting. As asparagus matures, it crowds out most weeds and sends long, fleshy roots deep into the earth, so watering is less critical. Fertilize in spring and fall by top-dressing with liquid fertilizer (such as compost tea) or side-dressing with a balanced organic fertilizer.
Leave winter-killed foliage, along with straw or other light mulch, on the bed to provide winter protection. Remove and destroy the fernlike foliage before new growth appears in spring; it can harbor diseases and pest eggs. If you want to grow white asparagus, which has a slightly milder flavor than green asparagus, blanch the spears by heaping up soil or mulch over the bed before they emerge.
Negative Effects Of Asparagus
Asparagus is also referred as Rasayana herb in Ayurveda and offers an immense range of health benefits with a few exceptions or side effects, which are listed below.
- Gas: Asparagus contains a carbohydrate known as raffinose. In order to digest this complex sugar, the human body needs to ferment it. During this process of breaking down the carbohydrate, gas is often produced and subsequently released from the body.
- Pregnancy and Lactation: Asparagus alters the hormonal balance and has been traditionally used for birth control. During pregnancy and lactation, it is usually considered safe to consume a normal amount of asparagus, but not to opt for medicinal doses without consulting a doctor.
- Allergic Reactions: Asparagus can cause allergies to people who are susceptible to allergic reactions to onions, leeks, and other members of the lily family.
- Kidney Stones: Asparagus contains purines. Purines break down to create uric acid which can accumulate as a result of high purine content in the body. This is not favorable for people suffering from uric acid-related complications like gout or kidney stones. It is recommended to avoid or restrict the intake of purine dense foods like asparagus for patients with those conditions.
Asparagus rejuvenates and acts as a tonic for the nerves. It is also useful in conditions like acne, jaundice, schistosomiasis, and leprosy. It strengthens the immune system and helps in promoting overall physical and mental well-being. Include this food in your diet and enjoy the benefits!
1. Might Experience A Dry Mouth:
Asparagus stems are powerful natural diuretic veggies. This diuretic nature triggers frequent urination, leading to dehydration. The lesser the fluid levels are in your body, the more the dehydration levels will be. This, in turn, will leave you dry mouthed.
2. Bowel Mobility May Suffer A Setback:
This springtime bright green veggie stalks are potential treasure troves of fiber. 100 grams of this veggies contain 2.1% of fiber, meeting up to 8% of the recommended daily value of the nutrient. Excessive intake of fiber is not advisable. The fiber eliminates the moisture, thus hardening the stools. Thus, in turn, affects the bowel movement in the small intestine negatively. The result – you might experience an obstruction in the intestine, accompanied by constipation, cramps, and pain.
3. Foul Smelling Stools:
This is one of the most commonly reported side effects of eating asparagus. This green vegetable contains an antioxidant, which actually is rich in the mineral sulfur. And, sulfur is an element that renders its characteristic smell wherever it is used. A day or two – that is the maximum time required for this foul smell of your stool to vanish.
4. Not Safe For People Having Edema Conditions:
If you have an edema due to some renal failure or cardiac disorders, then please use asparagus carefully. Studies suggest that this nutrient dense veggie might pose harm for people with such conditions. Hence it is advisable to take the opinion of your health care provider in such cases to avoid any complications.
5. Could Develop Allergies To Asparagus:
Allergic reactions have been reported in many cases after consuming this vegetable. Some of the most common allergic reactions include:
- Inflammation of the eye – allergic conjunctivitis with itching, redness, and swelling of the eyes
- Runny nose
- Blocked nose
- Irritating and itching throat
- Dry cough
- Hives on the skin with itches
- Inflammations on the skin with rashes, redness, and itching
- Difficulty in breathing/obstructed breathing
- Light headedness
6. You Might Be Under Flatulence Attack:
Foods rich in carbohydrates, especially dietary fiber, causes gas in the digestive tract. While studies suggest that people, on a daily average, pass gas 14 times. Asparagus is the trove of raffinose, the complex carbohydrate that contains 3 different sugar variants – glucose, fructose, and galactose. We do not possess the enzyme essential for breaking down this carbohydrate and hence, it gets fermented by bacteria, triggering the formation of gas in excess. Excessive gas puts you under the siege of burp as well as flatulence. Just make sure you do not overindulge in this healthy delight!
7. Not Safe For Those On Anti-Hypternsive Drugs:
Asparagus is known to have a positive role in regulating the blood pressure level, thus alleviating the risks associated with hypertension. However, if you are hypertensive and you have been advised anti-hypertension medications, then please be a little extra cautious while indulging in asparagus. Asparagus could possibly react with the medications, forcing the blood pressure levels to fall down to a dangerous level.
8. Sudden Weight Loss:
Weight loss is one of the undesirable side effects of consuming large quantity of asparagus. People, especially, those who are on a weight loss track do have this temptation of overindulging in this green stalk. When consumed in excess, your weight does go down on the scale due to the diuretic nature of this vegetable. However, excess loss of water from the body could leave you under the attack of dehydration. Moreover, this could be an unwanted weight loss also. So, always keep your portion under check to avoid such unwanted effects.
9. Affects Pregnancy And Breastfeeding:
Asparagus is not safe to use in medicinal amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In fact, asparagus extracts are used for birth control, as it plays a role in affecting the hormones. There is no solid scientific evidence to recommend this veggie during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is advisable to check with your doctor before going for it.
10. Interactions With Drugs:
There are two cases, mainly, where asparagus has shown interacting with prescribed medications:
- With anti-hypertensive drugs: Asparagus possesses the potential to lower BP. So, together with anti-hypotension medications, it could result in a drastic dip of the blood pressure levels, leaving you in danger.
- With diuretic drugs: Diuretics are prescribed for people suffering from renal issues or edema conditions. These spears are natural diuretics, and could actually accentuate the results of diuretic medications.
It is advisable to take the advice of the consulting medical practitioner, if you are on any of the aforementioned drugs, to thwart of undesirable consequences.
Don’t panic after reading all the above potential side effects of asparagus. Akin to 2 sides of a coin, everything in this nature has a good and bad side. It is up to you to identify the goodness over the bad to reap the benefits. Using every fruit, veggie, herb, and spice within the permissible levels will definitely bestow you with gifts. So, use asparagus in a judicious way and thwart the side effects.
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