Asparagus is native to Eurasia and was regarded as a delicacy by the Romans. The most renowned type of asparagus is the Argenteuil asparagus which is cultivated in France. The part used as a vegetable is the young shoot, and if white, blanched asparagus is required, then the earth must be mounded up around the young plant so that the stem is not exposed to the sunlight.
The plant is harvested when the tip of the asparagus appears above the mound. French asparagus can be peeled and cooked, and served together with a creamy mayonnaise-type sauce, or it can be used on Pizzas.
Asparagus root contains compounds called steroidal glycosides, which may help reduce inflammation. In fact, some Chinese herbalists have used it to treat arthritis.
Asparagus also contains useful amounts of calcium, magnesium and iodine and is an excellent source of folic acid. Moreover, vitamins A, C and E are also well supplied. Just ½ cup of cooked asparagus provides about 25% of the RDA for folic acid and more than 80% of the RDA for vitamin C.
Asparagus can be prepared in so many ways, but the most popular are raw in salads, stir-fried with other vegetables, sautéed and finished off with a sauce, basted in butter or oil and grilled, roasted in the oven, pureed into cold and hot soups, and pickled like an olive. Asparagus needs to be cooked as soon as possible after buying.