Ingredient of the Week, April 21: Asparagus
The name asparagus comes from the Greek language and means "sprout" or "shoot."
Asparagus is a member of the Lily family.
Asparagus is related to onions, leeks, and garlic.
California grows about 70% of all the asparagus grown in the United States.
More than 50,000 tons of asparagus are grown in California every year.
Asparagus has a long history going back as far as the first century. We have records of it growing in ancient Greece and Rome. Egyptians over 2,000 years ago cultivated asparagus for medicinal reasons and legend has it that it was so revered they offered it up to gods in their rituals.
It was surely first discovered growing wild ....
A wild asparagus has thin shoots thinner than a pencil and is much different than the asparagus that you find In your grocery counter. Through selective breeding and growing techniques they developed a thicker stem with more edible flesh.It was first cultivated in gardens in ancient Rome some as far back as the first century AD.
of the varieties produced such big shoots that they were 3 to the pound!
How long does it take Asparagus to grow?
Asparagus is planted in the ground three years before it can be harvested for the full season. First comes the seed then comes the plant. Farmers only harvest for short period of time the first few years to allow for further growth. The mature plant is harvested all season which typically stretches up to 90 days. Asparagus will grow sometimes 6 to 7 inches in one day!
Is it true white asparagus comes from the same plant as green asparagus?
Yes, that is true. When the spears emerge from the ground, the sunlight turns the stalks green. To get white asparagus, about 6 inches of dirt is piled on top of the plants so that the stalks can grow underground. They will grow at the same rate as an uncovered stalk.
When the tip breaks the soil surface, the worker probes under ground with his special knife to cut the stalk. This stalk is all white.
Purple asparagus originated from a region around Albenga, Italy.
Purple hybrids produce larger spears but fewer in number per plant than the green hybrids.
How to buy asparagus: Whether asparagus are thin or thick, choose them with firm, crisp stalks and compact, brightly colored heads with no trace of rust or softness. Selecting similarly sized specimen will help ensure even cooking. Avoid yellowish asparagus with soft stalks that are beginning to flower, which are a sign of age..
How to cook asparagus: Cut each spear approximately in half. Reserve the woody stems for another use, such as soup, or discard them. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a full rolling boil. Drop in the asparagus spears or bundles, let the water return to a boil, and cook uncovered to the desired doneness. Timing can be vague and will depend on the thickness of stalks. Ideally, the best method is to test the doneness by fishing out a spear, cut, and bite it to determine if it is ready. Avoid overcooking asparagus, as this causes it to lose flavor, color and nutrients. When boiling asparagus spears in large quantities, tie them in bundles to make it easier to remove them boiling water when cooked. Steaming is a good cooking method, and there are special tall, narrow asparagus steamers on the market in which the asparagus stand upright in an inner basket. This method cooks the asparagus more evenly, as the more fibrous bottoms are thoroughly cooked in the boiling water while the fragile tips are lightly steamed. asparagus is ready when the stalks are tender but still firm. As soon as asparagus is cooked, plunge it immediately into cold water to halt the cooking process. Drain when cold. Serve hot or cold.
Asparagus can also be cooked in a microwave oven . Avoid cooking it in iron pots, as this vegetablesetable contains tannins which react on contact with iron, altering the color of the asparagus.
Nutrition of asparagus: asparagus is an excellent source of folic acid and contains vitamin C, potassium, thiamine, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin A, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. asparagus contains asparagine, an acid substance that gives the vegetablesetable its characteristic flavor and is also a diuretic.
Storing asparagus: asparagus is very perishable. Wrapped in a damp cloth and placed in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator, it will keep for a maximum of 3 days. Blanched asparagus will keep for up to 9 months in the freezer.
How do you usually cook aspasragus? Do you have a recipe to share?