Asparagus


By Jennifer A. Wickes
Copyright 2002

History / Geography
Native to Eurasia.

Ancient Romans would only eat a few wild plants, and asparagus was one of those plants.

In the Middle East, wild asparagus was gathered and pickled before eaten.

By the Middle Ages, asparagus became a gourmet food in the Mediterranean countries.

By the 1650’s, asparagus was in the top 5 of the most popular vegetables to eat in France.

In the 1850’s, Germany began to can asparagus.

By the 19th century, when refrigeration became into play, asparagus became a worldwide commodity.

Science
Part of the Lily Family, liliaceae.

Varieties
There are three types of asparagus: purple, green or white.
The green asparagus is the most common. This type has a green stem and a purple tip.
The purple type is called viola.
The white type originated from Argenteuil, France, and is really a green asparagus grown underground!

Season
Asparagus are usually available between February and June, though hothouses in certain areas grow asparagus all year round.

How to Select
Choose your asparagus with a firm stalk, tight tips and a vivid color. The thicker the stalk of the asparagus, the older the plant is. Thinner stalks mean the plant was younger and therefore produces a more tender vegetable.

Storage
Store asparagus in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic for a maximum of 4 days. If desired, you can sit the asparagus, stem-side down, in 1 inch of water and cover the top with a plastic bag.

Nutritional Qualities
Asparagus contains Vitamin A and iron, as well as Vitamins B and C.

Wine Pairings
Depending on how you are preparing your asparagus and as to what you are serving with it, serve a Pinot Grigio or a Chenin Blanc.

Spices
basil, chervil, Herbes de Provence, marjoram, paprika, parsley, savory

Equivalencies
6 – 10 spears per individual serving
1 pound fresh = 12 – 22 spears = 3 1/2 cups chopped = 2 cups cooked (cut)

Preparation
Bend each spear of asparagus, and the spear will automatically snap where it needs to. Discard the lower end. With a vegetable peeler, peel off the tough skin of the stalk. Trim off any excess spiky flowers with a knife.
Stir-Fry: 2 cups of ½ inch slices in 1 tablespoon of oil for 1 minute, then add 2 tablespoons of liquid, cover and cook 2 – 3 minutes.
Microwave: 1 pound spears + 2 tbsp. water for 4 – 7 minutes
Boil: spears, 7 – 10 minutes.
Steam: 8 – 12 minutes.
Roast: spears, 400 degrees for 20 minutes
Asparagus is done when the color is bright and vivid and the stalk is tender when pierced with a fork.

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