All About Asparagus
Asparagus with Balsamic Viniagrette
Asparagus with Lemon Viniagrette
Asparagus with Orange Dressing and Toasted Hazelnuts
Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Shaved Parmesan
Asparagus With Sesame And Chive Blossoms
Asparagus with Sherry Vinaigrette
Asparagus with Truffle Oil Vinaigrette
Asparagus and Avocado Wraps
Cold Asparagus with Lemon-Mustard Dressing
Grilled Asparagus with Bacon and Eggs
Asparagus constituents are metabolized and excreted in the urine, giving it a distinctive, mildly unpleasant odor. The smell is caused by various sulfur-containing degradation products.
Serious scientific research in this field dates back to 1891, when M. Nencki tentatively identified a compound known as methanethiol as the culprit. The odor appears within an hour after eating just a few spears of the offending vegetable.
As a result of studies it was not only shown that only around 40% of the test persons displayed this characteristic smell, but also that not everyone is able to smell the odor once it is produced.
For example, Benjamin Franklin, in a discussion of
bodily discharges, once noted, "a few stems of asparagus eaten shall give
our urine a disagreeable odor; and a pill of turpentine no bigger than a pea
shall bestow upon it the pleasing smell of violets."
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis var. altilis L.) is a hardy perennial vegetable native to the seacoasts of Europe and eastern Asia, where it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. It was a well-known and valued vegetable to both the Greeks and Romans. Early settlers brought asparagus to North America, where it has been grown in home gardens since colonial times. Commercial asparagus production began in this country in the middle of the 19th century.
The underground portion of the plant consists of a network of rhizomes, fleshy storage roots, and fibrous roots. The fleshy roots (as well as the spears) are initiated from the rhizomes. Together, the fleshy roots and rhizome make up the crown, which is the perennial portion of the asparagus plant. Fleshy roots serve not only as storage organs for the carbohydrates received from the fern, but also as the site of fibrous root development. Fibrous roots, which live for one or two seasons, function in the absorption of water and nutrients from the soil.
The word asparagus comes from the Greek "asparagos," meaning shoot or sprout. Asparagus spears are, in fact, edible shoots that develop on rhizomes when the soil temperature is warm and the water supply is favorable. The spears, if not harvested, develop into ferns 4-6 feet tall. Carbohydrates and other compounds necessary for plant growth and development are produced in the ferns throughout the growing season. These substances are translated to the fleshy roots, where they are stored and used to produce spears the following spring.
Asparagus plants are dioecious, meaning that male and female
flowers are produced on separate plants. The flowers are
small, bell shaped, and whitish green. Male flowers are more
conspicuous than female flowers. Following pollination of
female flowers by bees, a berry, which has one to eight
seeds and turns red at maturity, develops. The seeds, which
are threshed from the berry when dry, are single, large,
black, and generally round with one flattened side. Female
plants are somewhat less productive and shorter lived than
male plants because of the energy allocated to seed
production. Thus, in a given planting of dioecious hybrids
or plants from open-pollinated sources, the ratio of male to
female plants initially is 50:50. As the age of a planting
increases, the ratio of male to female plants increases.
Select bright green asparagus with closed, compact, and firm tips. Also look for cut ends that are not dry.
Select asparagus stalks that are about the same thickness so cooking will be uniform. Thickness does not influence quality.
If the tips are slightly wilted, freshen them up by soaking them in cold water.
How To Store Asparagus:
Storage of fresh asparagus is important. Fresh asparagus must be kept refrigerated at all times.
Wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends and place in the refrigerator.
Keep fresh asparagus moist until you intend to use it.
Keep frozen asparagus in the freezer until you are ready.
Do no defrost before cooking. If the asparagus defrosts, cook it immediately.
Do not refreeze! Make sure you use the asparagus within eight months.
Keep canned asparagus in a cool, dry place.
How To Cook Asparagus - Cooking Tips and Times:
Saucepan or Steamer:
Double Boiler or Percolator:
Try fresh Asparagus with lemon juice.
Chives, parsley, chervil, savory, tarragon or other spices melted into butter are delicious when poured over Asparagus.
Sour cream, yogurt, and mayonnaise are easy toppings.
Medium dry white wines are best with Asparagus -look for Chenin Blanc, Fumé Blanc or French Colombard.
For purée, soups or salads, break or cut Asparagus spears at the tender part and use the trimmed ends that you might otherwise discard.
Place them in a covered saucepan and boil until tender.
Strain through a sieve or food mill forcing some of the pulp through, or process in a food processor or blender. Use as purée or mix with the cooking water for soups, stews, creamed dishes, or sauces.
For easy, fun grilling, skewer several spears with bamboo skewers to make a unique "raft".