The asparagus we eat in Europe is Asparagus officinalis which is believed to be a native of the eastern Mediterranean region. It has been cultivated in Italy at least since 200BC as it was described in the writings of Cato the Elder. Writing later Pliny mentions a type of asparagus that grew close to Ravenna saying that three of these asparagus spears weighed one pound, or almost half a kilogram. It has been highly prized as a delicacy and used to be a favourite which only the wealthy could afford, although now it is much more readily available. You can even buy white asparagus in cans and jars, and these spears are useful for salads as they have already been cooked. They have a milder taste than the fresh green asparagus spears though.
It used to be found wild on Anglesey in North Wales and on the southern coast of England and still can be found in many parts of Europe growing wild. I have picked young asparagus sprues in Portugal in winter and had a lot of fun doing so. They grow surrounded by thorny plants in Portugal and in thickets .I found a young rabbit trying to hide in the thicket the asparagus was growing in, which caused some consternation, as when it moved we thought it might have been a snake. However we continued picking the spears and had a good breakfast out of them as we cooked them in an omelette.
Asparagus is useful as a diuretic and the water used to boil asparagus in can be drunk to help relieve cystitis, other inflammations of the urinary tract and it can also be used as a tonic and cleanser for the skin. It is supposed to be good to treat acne with.
It contains saponins which may have antibiotic properties, and folic acid which helps prevent birth defects, cervical, rectal and colon cancers as well as heart disease.
Eating cooked asparagus and its watery juices may help in dispersing stones that have formed in the body’s organs. Native Americans used it for kidney, bladder and heart problems. In the Indian subcontinent the most common species of asparagus is Asparagus racemosus.
It also contains beta-carotene, vitamin C and potassium, and is good for the nervous system. Culpeper recommended that the root should be boiled in wine and use to stop toothache by leaving the liquid in the mouth over the painful tooth and said that this concoction was also good for the eyesight.
Asparagus should be cooked by tying 10 -12 spears into a bundle and standing them in 3 inches of water in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid. When the water boils, cover the pan and leave it for 10 minutes. The stalks of asparagus should offer a little resistance when you stick a knife into them, and the tops should be very tender after this time. You should cook ½ lb per person as an accompaniment or starter. It is best not to keep asparagus in the fridge after you have cooked it.
If you eat a lot of asparagus don’t worry if your urine is green; that is one of the side effects. You should avoid eating the young shoots raw and avoid the red berries as these will give you a bad stomach upset.
TUNA AND ASPARAGUS SALAD
Bundle of asparagus spears cooked and chopped or white asparagus
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp lemon juice,
2 tsps Dijon mustard
2 tsps chopped capers
½ tsp paprika
freshly ground black pepper
1 lettuce, washed
fresh coriander leaves for garnish
Place lettuce leaves in individual serving bowls as a lining.
Combine all the other ingredients and mix them well.
Put the mixture over the lettuce leaves and serve garnished with coriander leaves.
This has Taste and is a Treat.
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