The ancient Phoenicians brought asparagus to the Greeks and Romans. It was described in the sixteenth century by the English writer Evelyn as “sperage,” and he said that it was “delicious eaten raw with oil and vinegar.”
When selecting asparagus, choose spears that are fresh, firm, and tender (not woody or pithy), with tips that are tightly closed. Watch for signs of decay, such as rot and mold. If the tip of the spear appears wilted, the asparagus is really too old to be good. From the tip to all but an inch of the base, the stalk should be tender. Angular stalks indicate that they are tough and stringy.
Store asparagus wrapped in a damp cloth or waxed paper, and keep refrigerated until you are ready to use it. Asparagus loses its edible quality when it is subjected to dryness and heat, which reduce the sugar content and increase the fiber content.
Asparagus is a perennial herb, and is a member of the Lily of the Valley family. It can be served hot, with drawn butter; cold, in a salad; in soups; and as a sandwich filling or flavoring.
The season for asparagus is February through July, and the peak months are April, May, and June. Early spring asparagus is from California; late spring asparagus is shipped in early April or late May from Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa. Green asparagus is the most nutritious. Some varieties are green-tipped with white butts, and some are entirely white. Most of the white variety is canned.
Asparagus is best when cooked in stainless steel, on low heat. This leaves the shoots tender and retains their original color. If cooked with the tips up, more vitamin B1 and C will be preserved. The liquid can be saved and used in vegetable cocktails.
Asparagus acts as a general stimulant to the kidneys, but can be irritating to the kidneys if taken in excess or if there is extreme kidney inflammation. Because it contains chlorophyll, it is a good blood builder.
Green asparagus tips are high in vitamin A, while the white tips have almost none. This food leaves an alkaline ash in the body. Because they have a lot of roughage, only the tips can be used in a soft diet. They are high in water content and are considered a good vegetable in an elimination diet. Many of the elements that build the liver, kidneys, skin, ligaments, and bones are found in green asparagus. Green asparagus also helps in the formation of red blood corpuscles.
NUTRIENTS IN ONE POUND
Vitamin A: 3,430 I.U.
Ascorbic Acid: 113mg