Asparagus has the botanical name Asparagus officinalis. It is a spring vegetable consisting of young shoots. As the plant grows, it turns woody and becomes inedible. The young shoots however make a delicious side salad when lightly sautéed and served tender, but crisp.
Cultivation of this vegetable is thought to have begun in Egypt some two thousand years ago. The name is thought to be Persian in origin and means ‘shoot’, which in Persian is ‘asparag’. In England, this plant used to be called ‘sparrow grass’, which sounds rather like ‘asparagus’. Asparagus arrived in North America with the Pilgrim Fathers. It is now grown on a large scale in the sunny state of California.
This highly nutritious vegetable can be boiled, grilled over medium heat, roasted, or even microwaved. Add garlic, lemon, pepper or salt to give it more flavour. It can be used as an appetizer or a side dish, and is delicious with meat, salad, or simply with eggs. The choice is yours.
Asparagus is nutritious because of the minerals, vitamins and antioxidants it contains. It is very low in calories (a mere four calories per spear), so it is a good for people concerned about their weight. It is also a rich source of the B complex of vitamins, and particularly vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as folate.
Vitamin K is good for the blood, bones and the heart. It helps to prevent hardening of the arteries by keeping calcium out of artery linings. Vitamin C boosts immunity, while vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that mops up damaging free radicals circulating the body. Vitamin A is retinol, which is essential for night vision.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) helps the body utilise energy from food, especially the energy contained in carbohydrates. The B complex of vitamins help to metabolize sugars, so they are important in controlling blood sugar levels.
Folate in asparagus helps pregnancy by decreasing the risk of neural-tube defects in fetuses. It works with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to build proteins. It also helps with the formation of red blood cells.
Copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc make up the rich mineral package that this vegetable offers.
Asparagus is also a natural diuretic, so it helps with urine production and assists with the removal of excess salts and fluid from the body.
The tender but crisp spears are an excellent source of dietary fibre, which helps the digestive system.
When buying asparagus, choose spears with ‘tight’ heads. They might come bound with elastic or string to keep the spears together. The best spears snap when bent. Trim the bottom ends first, then wash the spears thoroughly before cooking to tender and crisp.
Source by George Blays