April is the month for Asparagus. It’s bright-green shooting stalk is the epitome of Spring. We’ve spent the past few winter months winding down, conserving energy in preparation for the new birth and regeneration that this season brings us. Many vegetables start to make an appearance about now (onions, leeks, mushrooms, garlic, etc.) – but The Mighty Asparagus is King (or Queen – but we’ll get to that later).
The Asparagus plant has one of the longest growing periods of any vegetable, needing 3-4 years to build well-established roots. It will grow just about anywhere that has a freezing cold winter or dry season. You can start a plant from seed (harder, but more cost-effective), or from a year-old crown (saves time but more prone to disease or weakness). Asparagus is ‘dioecious’ – meaning it has male flowers and female flowers on separate plants. Growing from seed allows you to plant an all-male bed which is beneficial because male asparagus plants put all their energy into producing edible spears. Female plants, on the other hand, put most of their energy towards reproducing, creating berries that fall to the ground and self seed. Well prepared and maintained asparagus beds only increase in production, and can last for as long as up to 30 years!
Not only is this plant not afraid of commitment – it delivers an abundance of nutrition. It gets it’s name from the ammino acid ‘asparagine’, which it is brimming with. Asparagus packs a good dose of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacen, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium. WOW.
Interestingly, there is a recipe for asparagus in the oldest existing recipe book: Apicius’s third-century AD De re conquinaria, Book III. It follows:
6. A Dish of Asparagus, Another Way: Add asparagus tips (that are usually thrown away) to a mortar. Pound, add wine, then pass through a sieve. Pound pepper, lovage, fresh coriander, savory, onion, wine, liquamen and olive oil. Put the purée and spices in a greased shallow pan, and, if you wish, break eggs over it when it is on the fire, so that the mixture sets. Season with finely-ground pepper and serve.
Read more at Celtnet: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/apicius-pandecter-4.php
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Another interesting fact: Asparagus can make your pee smell (if you haven’t already noticed). If you are among the few who claim you’ve never smelled it, that’s because (no offense) you lack the ability to detect the odor, or you lack the ability to produce the odor! Research studies are inconclusive as to why some people produce the odor but can’t smell it – or don’t produce it but can detect it. Check out the BBC’s run-down on these studies here.
And as you begin your transition into spring this year, remember to ‘stalk’ – up on some asparagus. 🙂