Asparagus officinalis is a flowering plant species in the genus Asparagus from which the vegetable known as asparagus is obtained. It is native to most of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It is now also widely cultivated as a vegetable crop.
Only the young shoots of asparagus are eaten.
Asparagus is low in calories, contains no fat or cholesterol, and is very low in sodium. It is a good source of folic acid, potassium, dietary fiber, and rutin. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, the asparagus plant being rich in this compound.
The shoots are prepared and served in a number of ways around the world. In Asian-style cooking, asparagus is often stir-fried. Cantonese restaurants in the United States often serve asparagus stir-fried with chicken, shrimp, or beef, also wrapped in bacon. Asparagus may also be quickly grilled over charcoal or hardwood embers. It is also used as an ingredient in some stews and soups. In the French style, it is often boiled or steamed and served with hollandaise sauce, melted butter or olive oil, Parmesan cheese or mayonnaise. The best asparagus tends to be early growth (meaning first of the season) and is often simply steamed and served along with melted butter. Tall, narrow asparagus cooking pots allow the shoots to be steamed gently, their tips staying out of the water.
Asparagus can also be pickled and stored for several years. Some brands may label them as "marinated" which means the same thing.
The bottom portion of asparagus often contains sand, and as such thorough cleaning is generally advised in cooking asparagus.
White asparagus, known as spargel, is cultivated by denying the plants light and increasing the amount of ultraviolet light the plants are exposed to while they are being grown. Less bitter than the green variety, it is very popular in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany where 57,000 tonnes (61% of consumer demands) are produced annually.
Purple asparagus differs from its green and white counterparts, having high sugar and low fibre levels. Purple asparagus was originally developed in Italy and commercialised under the variety name Violetto d'Albenga. Since then, breeding work has continued in countries such as the United States and New Zealand.
As of 2007, Peru is the world's leading asparagus exporter, followed by China and Mexico. The top asparagus importers (2004) were the United States (92,405 tonnes), followed by the European Union (external trade) (18,565 tonnes), and Japan (17,148 tonnes). The United States' production for 2005 was on 218.5 km² (54,000 acres) and yielded 90,200 tonnes, making it the world's third largest producer, after China (5,906,000 tonnes) and Peru (206,030 tonnes). US production was concentrated in California, Michigan, and Washington. The crop is significant enough in California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region that the city of Stockton holds a festival every year to celebrate it.
Asparagus officinalis is widely known simply as "asparagus", and may be confused with unrelated plant species also known as "asparagus", such as Ornithogalum pyrenaicum known as "Prussian asparagus" for its edible shoots.
The English word "asparagus" derives from classical Latin, but the plant was once known in English as sperage, from the Medieval Latin sparagus. This term itself derives from the Greek aspharagos or asparagos, and the Greek term originates from the Persian asparag, meaning "sprout" or "shoot".
Asparagus was also corrupted in some places to "sparrow grass"; indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary quotes John Walker as having written in 1791 that "Sparrow-grass is so general that asparagus has an air of stiffness and pedantry". In Gloucestershire and Worcestershire where arguably the best asparagus is grown it is also known simply as "grass". Another known colloquial variation of the term, most common in parts of Texas, is "aspar grass" or "asper grass". In the Midwest United States and Appalachia, "spar grass" is a common colloquialism. Asparagus is commonly known in fruit retail circles as "Sparrows Guts", etymologically distinct from the old term "sparrow grass", thus showing convergent language evolution.
In a South Indian language, Kannada, it is known as Ashadhi, Majjigegadde or Sipariberuballi.
ASPARAGUS A SNAP TO GROW IN VALLEY ASPARAGUS IS A DIOECIOUS PLANT, WHICH MEANS THAT, WHEN GROWN FROM SEED, ABOUT HALF THE PLANTS WILL BE MALES AND HALF FEMALES.(L.A. Life)
Oct 21, 2000; Byline: Joshua Siskin Isn't it about time you grew your own asparagus? That nutritious vegetable is not getting any cheaper, and...