What Exactly Is Asparagus?
Asparagus is the popular name for the perennial flowering plant Asparagus officinalis L., which is well known for its tasty young shoots. Asparagus plants were previously classed as members of the lily family (Liliaceae), but they have now been reclassified as members of the angiosperm family Asparagaceae. Asparagus grows natively in sandy soils in mild Mediterranean climes, and is sometimes referred to as “sparrow grass.” Cultivated asparagus may now be found in places as far north as Germany as south as New Zealand and Peru.
Asparagus plants may grow up to seven feet tall and resemble ferns when fully mature. Some asparagus ferns (scientific name: Asparagus setaceus) are planted for decorative purposes, whereas others thrive as weeds in some regions of Australia. Wild asparagus and cultivated asparagus have been consumed by humans for thousands of years. Growing asparagus beds at home is simple, but young plants require time to establish their root systems before you can harvest the vegetables in their first year.
It was popular in ancient Egypt, as demonstrated by a number of tombs with a bunch of asparaguses adorning the walls. Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician, employed the plant to cure diarrhoea and urethral pains, while Dioscorides, another Greek physician, advised it for renal disorders, sciatica, and jaundice.
Emperor Augustus organized the so-called Asparagus Fleet to deliver the greatest asparagus discoveries to Rome, while the quickest Roman athletes were renowned to carry asparagus into the Alps to preserve it.
Because asparagus is King Louis XIV’s favorite meal, the Frenchmen grew it in their greenhouses to assure a year-round supply.
Asparagus Varieties That Are Popular
The color of the asparagus crowns is used to distinguish different types of asparagus. Take a look at some of the most popular asparagus kinds.
Basic Varieties include:
1. Asparagus (green)
The most frequent form of asparagus found in supermarket produce areas is green asparagus. Its color grows even brighter and greener as it cooks, and its texture is crisp but soft. Although many people feel that asparagus that is thinner and younger is more delicate, this is not the case. Because asparagus has a fixed set of fibers that aren’t as visible in thicker spears, the texture will be even softer when you pick thicker spears.
2. Asparagus (purple)
Purple asparagus is unique not just because of its color, but also because of its nutritional value. Its purple hue comes from high quantities of an antioxidant called anthocyanin. Because of its decreased fiber content, it is also an extremely delicate kind of asparagus, much more so than its white and green siblings. In addition, because it contains more sugar than other asparagus kinds, it has a significantly sweeter flavor.
3. Asparagus Blanche
The only difference between green and white asparagus is the color; white asparagus has the same flavor and texture as green asparagus, as long as the type is the same or close. Because white asparagus is cultivated in the dark, it does not become green. White asparagus may be fairly expensive — up to double the price of other forms of asparagus — due to these and a few other features, and it is genuinely regarded a delicacy in Europe. Another factor contributing to its high price is the high cost of production, which must be passed on to customers.
4. Asparagus in the wild
This species of asparagus grows wild, as the name implies, and is easy to locate if you know where to search. It has a more delicate flavor and is longer and thinner than its cultivated siblings. Early spring is the best time to gather wild asparagus, which may be found throughout western Europe and the United Kingdom, mainly on coastal dunes and cliffs, as well as wide grassy regions near oceans. If you can find the yellow growth in the fall, you may return in the spring and search for spears that will have grown by that time. The thorns on the wild asparagus shrub are green and sharp, but yet tender, and it grows to around three feet in length. Because of this, using gloves when gathering wild asparagus plants is usually unnecessary.
Particular Varieties of Asparagus:
1. Precoce D’Argenteuil:
This pale green heritage type with rose pink tips is popular in Europe. The plant may reach a height of three feet. When cooked, these asparagus have a sweet flavor and are soft.
2. Mary Washington:
This is the most common green asparagus cultivar in North America, alongside the ‘Martha Washington’ cultivar, and is part of the Washington Series of asparagus. When planted in full or partial light, they produce tall, consistently thick green spears.
Dark green with purple tips, these huge, crisp, early bloomers develop to be large, crisp, and early bloomers. They thrive in both hot and cold areas and are disease resistant to asparagus rust and other pests. ‘Apollo’ asparagus, like ‘Purple Passion,’ has thicker spears that are perfect for freezing.
4. Jersey Giant:
A hybrid asparagus cultivar, ‘Jersey Giant’ is one of the Jersey Series’ cultivars. The ‘Jersey Knight’ and ‘Jersey Supreme’ cultivars, which were engineered to be meaty and disease-resistant, are among the others in the series. They are extremely resistant to the fungus Fusarium. The ‘Jersey Giant’ hybrid asparagus type grows well in most climes, and the edible section of the plant may grow up to nine inches long, as the name says.
This kind of asparagus is disease-resistant and thrives in hot areas. ‘Atlas’ asparagus is a high-yielding, frost-resistant crop.
Asparagus Health Benefits:
Nutrients abound, but calories are few.
Asparagus has a low calorie count but a high nutritional profile.
In reality, half a cup of cooked asparagus (90 grams) includes (1):
2.2 grams of protein
0.2 gram fat
1.8 grams of fiber
12 percent of the RDI for vitamin C
18% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A
Vitamin K: 57 percent of the recommended daily intake
Folate: 34% of the recommended daily intake
Potassium: 6% of the recommended daily intake
Phosphorous is 5% of the RDI.
7 percent of the RDI for vitamin E
Other micronutrients found in asparagus include iron, zinc, and riboflavin in tiny levels.
It’s a good source of vitamin K, a substance that helps with blood clotting and bone health.
Furthermore, asparagus is high in folate, a vitamin that is essential for a healthy pregnancy as well as a variety of physiological activities such as cell development and DNA creation.
Can Boost Digestion:
Dietary fiber is necessary for a healthy digestive system.
Half a cup of asparagus has 1.8 grams of fiber, which is 7% of your daily fiber requirement.
According to research, consuming a diet rich in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables can help lower the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Asparagus is abundant in insoluble fiber, which helps maintain regular bowel motions by adding weight to the stool.
A minor quantity of soluble fiber is also present, which dissolves in water and creates a gel-like material in the digestive tract.
Friendly bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, are fed by soluble fiber.
Increasing the quantity of these good bacteria strengthens the immune system and helps the body produce critical minerals like B12 and K2.
Asparagus is a great method to satisfy your fiber needs and keep your digestive system healthy when eaten as part of a fiber-rich diet.
Assists in a Healthy Pregnancy
Asparagus is high in folate, which is also known as vitamin B9.
Adults get 34% of their daily folate needs from half a cup of asparagus, while pregnant women get 22% of their daily folate needs from half a cup of asparagus (1).
Folate is a nutrient that aids in the formation of red blood cells and the production of DNA for proper growth and development. It’s especially critical throughout the first trimester of pregnancy to ensure the baby’s proper growth.
Folate, which can be found in asparagus, green leafy vegetables, and fruit, can help prevent neural tube disorders like spina bifida.
Learning issues, lack of bowel and bladder control, and physical disability are all possible outcomes of neural tube abnormalities.
In fact, enough folate is so important during pre-pregnancy and early pregnancy that women are advised to take folate supplements to ensure they achieve their needs.
Aids in Blood Pressure Control
More than 1.3 billion individuals worldwide have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke (29Trusted Source).
Increasing potassium consumption while lowering salt intake appears to be an effective method to control high blood pressure (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
Potassium reduces blood pressure in two ways: it relaxes blood vessel walls and excretes excess salt through urine (32Trusted Source).
Asparagus is a strong source of potassium, with a half-cup portion supplying 6% of your daily need.
In addition, studies in rats with high blood pressure show that asparagus may have further blood pressure-lowering characteristics. Rats were fed either a 5 percent asparagus diet or a regular diet without asparagus in one research.
The rats on the asparagus diet had 17% lower blood pressure after 10 weeks than the animals on the normal diet (33Trusted Source).
This impact was thought to be caused by an active chemical in asparagus that stimulates blood vessels to widen, according to researchers.
However, human research is needed to see if this active chemical has the same impact in humans.
In any event, eating more potassium-rich foods like asparagus will help you maintain a healthy blood pressure level.
To sum up, if you wanted to add more asparagus to your diet, or simply learn more about the food, we hope that this comprehensive guide will prove useful to you.