A perennial vegetable of the Lily family, the asparagus plant (Asparagus officinalis) is native to the Eastern Mediterranean area.
The origin of the name asparagus comes from the Greek asparagos meaning ‘sprout’ or ‘sparrow’.
Archeologists also found traces of wild Asparagus varieties in Egypt and other areas in Africa and it was also known to have been cultivated since Pharaohs’ times.
The Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavour and texture and the Emperor Augustus is known to have been very fond of it. In the early 16th century, asparagus was served in the courts of European kings and princes.
Its production was exclusively for nobility until the 18th century, when it became available on the market.
Asparagus was grown for food and medicinal purposes over 2000 years ago. Greeks and Romans believed in its healing and medicinal properties. Nowadays, it is recognised as a particularly healthy vegetable thanks to the range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals it contains.
Extraordinary Health Benefits
Since the dawn of time, asparagus has been known for its diuretic virtues as well as laxative and depurative properties. It contains original substances such as asparagine that make it the remedy of choice for urinary track problems and for clearing urine.
It is recommended for the treatment of urea, uric acid and urinary obstructions. Asparagine or aspartic acid is one of the most common natural amino acids found in foods. It is also what gives urine the particular smell after eating asparagus.
Asparagus has a beneficial action on kidneys, adrenal glands and bladder. Some health practitioners claim they observed the eviction of kidney stones facilitated or precipitated by an asparagus cure.
It also contain fibers that facilitate the intestinal transit and encourage digestion. Its gentle effect on the intestinal functions can help reverse a tendency for constipation, without irritating the intestinal mucous membrane.
Asparagus is an excellent source of folic acid, which is known to reduce birth defect making a food of choice during pregnancy.
Asparagus contains iron, which is essential for fighting anemia. It holds juices that are potent blood purifiers. An asparagus cure can help regulate blood circulation as well as encourage liver drainage.
It is also a precious source of vitamins B (more abundant in the green asparagus rather than the white or purple) copper, zinc and potassium. Additionally, it is poor in sodium and rich in manganese, beneficial to bone density, ligaments and skin.
Asparagus contains as much carotene (pro-vitamin A) as the tomato or the Brussels sprout. It is recommended as a side dish for salty and meat based dishes because of it diuretic properties.
Its fat free with low calorific value (100 gr. = 44 Kcal) and, as if the list wasnt impressive already, asparagus is also rich with glutathione, a small molecule made up of three amino acids, which by its nature is an antioxidant with anti-cancerogenic properties.
Asparagus contains more glutathione than any other common food item.
When in season, you can eat the asparagus raw, grated in salad or even juice it to obtain maximum benefits. Otherwise lightly steam, rather than boil, to preserve the sodium and other minerals from boiling away.
Caution: Certain health practitioners recommend not mixing asparagus with artichokes and spinach in the same meal, as their juices are not compatible.
Excessive consumption of asparagus is not recommended in case of cystitis, prostatitis and nephritis.
Asparagus with Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 pounds asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Blanch the asparagus in lightly salted boiling water or steam for about 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; do not overcook. Remove from heat and refresh under cold water; drain well. Arrange asparagus on serving platter or individual serving plates.
In a bowl or jar, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil and pepper.
Spoon the vinaigrette over the asparagus, sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
Asparagus with Anchovies Dressing
– 2 pounds asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed
– 4 tablespoons good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
– 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1x 50g tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil
Blanch or steam the asparagus as above. In the meantime, place the anchovies with most of the olive oil in a frying pan on low heat. Crush the anchovies with a fork until you obtain a paste. Add the balsamic vinegar and pepper and mix well. You can add a few drops of water to dilute the sauce.
Delicious served with couscous!