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Information about asparagus plus large Asparagus recipe collection


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May 2009


Asparagus (Liliaceae-Asparagacease ) is a member of the lily family and a distant cousin of the leek and onion.  Considered by many to be the queen of vegetables, asparagus has been, and still is,  a highly prized vegetable which, unfortunately, has a relatively short season of just 10 weeks.


Origin & History of Asparagus


Asparagus is believed to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean area, however archaeologists have found traces of wild varieties in Africa and it is also thought to have been  cultivated in ancient Egypt as evidenced by  ancient Egyptian writings.


Asparagus gets its name from the ancient Greek ‘aspharagos’ which in turn originates from the Persian word ‘asparag’ meaning sprout, stalk or shoot. It was popular with the ancient Greeks who believed it to have both sacred and aphrodisiac powers and it is known that Hippocrates used it for medicinal purposes such as the treatment of  diarrhoea and urinary problems.


They were popular with the Romans too who had written instructions on how to grow  asparagus. So prized were these perennial shoots by the Romans that not only did they enjoy eating them in season but they were also the first to preserve it by freezing as early as the 1st Century AD when fast chariots would take the fresh asparagus from the Tiber River area to the Alps where it kept for six months until the Feast of Epicurus. The Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus coined the phrase 'velocius quam asparagi conquantur', meaning to do something  quicker than you can cook asparagus.  


The Romans are responsible for having introduced asparagus to England, where it gradually gained favour with the nobles and by the early 16th century, it was widely served in many of the Royal courts of Europe.


Battersea in the 21st Century

with its famous Power Station

By the 17th Century, asparagus was being commercially cultivated in England and, believe it or not,  one of the prime location for its cultivation  was in the village of Battersea just outside the city of London,  where they were famously sold as “Battersea bundles”. Asparagus was so popular that the area of cultivation was widened to include Fulham, Gravesend, Isleworth and Deptford just in order to supply London.


Asparagus was so popular that they even got a mention by Samuel Pepys, the diarist, who recorded that he bought a bundle of "sparrow grass" in Fenchurch Street for 1s.6p.

By the 19th Century London was becoming so built up that  new asparagus fields were established in The Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire, which is still regarded as the home of asparagus today.

Asparagus Nutritional Values


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Asparagus is a good source of folic acid (vitamin B9) and also contains potassium, copper and iron. It is also rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C. The asparagus contains a sour agent, which noticeably renders the urine potent when digested. It also contains asparagine,  which gives it its particular flavour and which has diuretic properties

Around seven spears (80g) provides one of your recommended 5-A-Day servings, 69% of the RDA of Folate, 20% of the RDA of Vitamin C and 12% of the RDA of Vitamin B1. It  is also one of the richest sources of Rutin which together with vitamin C, can help to protect the body from infections as well as being rich in soluble fibre.


Buying and storing Asparagus

Choose asparagus with firm brittle spears and well coloured tight tips. Try to choose stems which are the  same size so they cook evenly. Asparagus is quite fragile. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week preferably in a perforated plastic bag.


Freezing Asparagus


Blanch whole spears of asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes then open freeze on a tray. Once frozen, pack into freezer bags where they will keep for about five months.

Cooking with Asparagus


Asparagus has to be cooked to get the best flavour and texture.  To prepare them, if necessary, snap or cut off the bottom stalk to remove the tough fibrous part.  Wash gently in cold running water.


Asparagus can be cooked in many ways, but over-cooking should be avoided: they should be tender but not too droopy.   For detailed preparation, cooking methods and timings visit our

Preparing & Cooking Fresh Asparagus  page.


Asparagus Recipes - Click here for lots of Asparagus Recipes



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