Where am I from?
I am native to most of Europe, northern Africa and Western Asia. I'm cultivated today across the world, the main suppliers being China, Peru and Japan. Real Foods buy me in from France and the UK. I've a fairly short growing season (February to June) so catch me while you can!
What do I look like?
I'm either green, white or purple. Real Foods usually buy the green asparagus grown in the UK. It still has purple tints and contains more stress-busting B vitamins thatn other varieties. The purple contains more anthocyanins (the antioxidant pigments that make the purple colour). It takes around 2-3 years to grow a mature crown, the stalks then grow on the crown and can be harvested. A stalk can grow up to 10 inches a day in optimal growing conditions.
And on the inside?
The fibrous stalk can be woody towards the end of the season, but generally if I'm small I taste delicious, try to cook the stalks more than the tips (there are special asparagus pans available!)
What do I do?
Asparagus contains inulin - a prebiotic that encourages healthy gut flora. It;s a great source of B vitamins (particularly folate) which may help control homocysteine levels (extremely useful as excess homecysteine is linked to heart disease, cognitive impairment and cancers.) Pregnant mothers are advised to increase their folate as it helps to fight birth defects. Asparagus also contains aspartic acid, which neutralises excess ammonia in the body, in turn helping you feel full of energy and vigour. In addition, asparagus contains rutin and glutathione, which protects cells against oxidative stress from free radicals, promotes a healthy immune system and may help strengthen blood vessels. Not only tha, but asparagus also has detoxifying properties and beta-carotene which have a purifying effect on your skin.
Shatavari is a species of asparagus grown throughout Asia (particularly Sri Lanka, India and the Himalayas) and is recommended in Ayurvedic texts for the prevention of ulcers and nervous disorders.
So now you know all about asparagus...how do you use it? First of all, you want it fresh and in season for the best taste and nutrition. Secondly, as asparagus deteriorates quickly, you'll want to use it within a few days of buying. Thirdly, don't mess with it too much. It only needs 3-5 minutes of steaming - don't bother boiling the goodness out, just steam, BBQ or braise briefly and enjoy.
Fresh Organic Asparagus can be bought here.
Other asparagus and shatavari products can be found here
Here's a link to our recipes for asparagus. Try asparagus and salsify soup for an elegant starter, or sauté asparagus with tofu to make this lovely recipe.