Types Of Asparagus – Learn About Different Varieties Of Asparagus
Asparagopsis species are members of the family Aspergillaceae, which includes such plants as sweet clover (Trifolium pratense), wild carrot (Capsicum annuum) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). All three belong to the same genus, but they have different common names. Sweet clover and wild carrot are both members of the genera Trifolium and C. annuum respectively, while dandelion is a member of the genus Taraxacum.
The most commonly grown asparagus plant in North America is the Jersey Giant (Lepidium meyenii). It grows up to 12 feet tall with a diameter of 3 feet. The leaves are green or purple, depending upon growing conditions. They are oval in shape and 1/4 inch wide at their widest point.
The flowers are white or pinkish red, and grow from the top of the stalk. These flowers open into long stalks that resemble miniature umbrellas.
Jersey Giants come in many colors including yellow, orange, red, cream, maroon and blue. Some varieties are even striped!
Asparagus has been found in the ruins of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations. In fact, the ancient Greeks and Romans used asparagus as a medicine to treat kidney and bladder ailments.
The French in the 18th century were particularly fond of asparagus. King Louis XIV appointed a parliamentary special envoy to acquire asparagus for his court. The envoy was so successful that the asparagus growing areas were soon ravaged, and the king had to send his envoy further afield.
There are now more than 2,000 types of asparagus plants in existence.
It is perfectly legal to pick your own asparagus in the United States, but only if you own the land or have written consent from the owner. This is because of an old English law called ‘The Custom of the Manor’.
A single acre of asparagus can produce up to 20,000 lbs. of the vegetable.
Asparagus is a very delicate plant, and when it grows wild it only does so in very moist habitats. It tends to grow on hillsides around the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East. So, as you can imagine, it is very difficult to cultivate in arid conditions.
The Aztecs believed that eating asparagus made your urine smell terrible. Presumably, they ate asparagus before going into battle!
The Incas adorned their temples with sculptures of asparagus.
Asparagus is rich in nutrients, especially vitamin C and vitamin A. It is low in calories, and has no cholesterol or fat. In fact, it contains no vitamin B12, which is unusual for a vegetable. It also contains lots of folic acid, which is great for the prevention of birth defects.
Asparagus is a very versatile vegetable. It is delicious hot, cold, boiled, fried and even raw. It can be served as an appetizer or a main course. It also compliments most sauces and dressings.
Asparagus also freezes well, so there is no need to throw away leftovers!
Asparagus contains several unique chemicals that give it its characteristic taste. One in particular, asparagusic acid, is found in its stems and buds but not in its roots or leaves. This is the reason why the stems and buds have a much stronger flavor than other parts of the plant. It also has an effect on the human body once it is ingested.
The Romans used asparagus as a treatment for ‘the stone and gravel’, meaning urinary ailments relating to the formation of kidney stones or gallstones. It was also used to treat sexual weakness and tiredness.
Asparagus is a popular food in many countries around the world. It is arguably at its most popular in France, and especially at dinner parties where it is used as a vegetable to accompany the main meat course. In England and other parts of Europe, asparagus is seen more as a delicacy rather than a staple food. In North America it is not as popular because it does not grow so well in the climate there.
Asparagus grows wild in much of Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. It was first cultivated in ancient Egypt, and spread from there to other parts of southern Europe. It is probable that it was the Romans who introduced asparagus to England in around 200BC after picking it up on their travels. England is thought to have some of the best asparagus growing conditions in the world.
In the 16th century, a very famous English doctor and scientist called Thomas Moffet warned in his work, ‘The Secrets of Physic’, that asparagus ‘makes the urine stink’. He also believed that it could lead to mental confusion and even cause death!
Benjamin Franklin is responsible for bringing asparagus to America. He was sent by the American colonies to France to negotiate a treaty with the French government during the Revolutionary War. Whilst he was there, he became very fond of asparagus and had it shipped to America.
The Native American population never ate asparagus, but used the juice from the stems and roots to treat coughs, colds and sore eyes.
Asparagus is a good source of several vitamins and minerals. 100g of asparagus provides 10% of the RDA for vitamin K, 12% of the RDA for vitamin A, 15% of the RDA for vitamin C and a lot of folate. It is also a good source of some B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).
Asparagus is classed as an alkaline food. It also contains several minerals that are believed to be beneficial to the body, such as copper, manganese and potassium.
There are two types of asparagus grown commercially; white and green. White asparagus is treated with sulphur to keep it from turning green, although size-wise, it is the less desirable of the two since much of the nutrient-rich soil and minerals tend to concentrate in the green parts rather than the stalks themselves.
Asparagus contains several nutrients and minerals that are beneficial for the body. It is high in fiber, folic acid, vitamins A, C and E, as well as potassium and a number of important minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
Asparagus is also high in amino acids. It is one of the only natural sources of the amino acid asparagine, which is essential for the body to build proteins. It also contains asparagine, which helps to control blood sugar levels.
Asparagus is also a very good source of vitamin A and folic acid, as well as the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. It is also high in minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, sodium and silicon.
Sources & references used in this article:
Specific detection of the toxigenic species Fusarium proliferatum and F. oxysporum from asparagus plants using primers based on calmodulin gene sequences by G Mulè, A Susca, G Stea, A Moretti – FEMS Microbiology Letters, 2004 – academic.oup.com
Assessment of genetic variation among asparagus (Asparagus officinalis L.) populations and cultivars: agromorphological and isozymic data by E Geoffriau, D Denoue, C Rameau – Euphytica, 1991 – Springer
Biodiversity and Biogeography of Fusarium Species from Northeastern North American Asparagus Fields Based on Microbiological and Molecular Approaches by V Vujanovic, C Hamel, E Yergeau, M St-Arnaud – Microbial ecology, 2006 – Springer
… barriers to the recovery of bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides (L.) Druce) infested sites: Impacts on vegetation and the potential increase in other exotic species by PJ Turner, JK Scott, H Spafford – Austral Ecology, 2008 – Wiley Online Library
… phylogeny of the genus Asparagus (Asparagaceae) explains interspecific crossability between the garden asparagus (A. officinalis) and other Asparagus species by S Kubota, I Konno, A Kanno – Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 2012 – Springer