Asparagus is a green vegetable that is long and slender and a member of the lily family. Asparagus spears are grown from a central "crown" that is planted about 1 foot below sandy soil. The asparagus spears will grow up from the crown for about six to seven weeks in the spring and early summer. An asparagus plant that is well taken care of will produce spears for 15 to 20 years without any replanting.
Asparagus has been utilized as a food and used for medicinal properties since the first century A.D., according to the World's Healthiest Foods. Asparagus was first grown in the eastern Mediterranean, then fell out of popularity in the middle ages. It was discovered once again in the 18th century by Louis XIV. Today, asparagus is grown commercially in the United States, Peru, Mexico, France and Spain.
Asparagus has less than four calories per spear, no fat or cholesterol and low sodium. In addition, it is a rich source of potassium, fiber, folic acid, thiamin, glutathione, vitamins A, B6, C and K, calcium and iron.
Selection and Storage
An ideal bunch of asparagus will have rounded stalks with thin, firm stems and closed green or slightly purplish tips. On the odd occasion, you may find white asparagus at your supermarket. This type has been kept underground away from sunlight so it wouldn't create any chlorophyll. Wrap the ends of your asparagus in a damp paper towel and store in the fridge for up to two days. Keep it near the back away from the light to preserve the folate content.
Asparagus is very low in calories, and as such, a beneficial addition to any weight loss eating program. It also provides a high concentration of nutrients which helps overall health. Asparagus also benefits your heart with its folate content, its potassium makes it a natural diuretic to help with PMS water retention, and a substance called inulin can help increase friendly bacteria in your gut, says the World's Healthiest Foods website. Asparagus is also a good food for pregnant women to eat for its folic acid to help prevent birth defects.
Asparagus is quite versatile and can be prepared in a variety of different ways. You can eat it raw, steamed, grilled, boiled, baked, or even toss a few spears in a juice extractor with some carrots to make juice. The bottom part of the asparagus spear is woody and tough, so it is wise to trim off the bottoms, or bend them until they break naturally. Asparagus can be eaten on its own, in a salad, or as a side dish to a larger meal.