This month’s buyer’s choice is asparagus and be warned we will be discussing “THAT” property of asparagus, so you might want to proceed with caution.
Asparagus has been used as a vegetable owing to its distinct flavour, and in medicine due to its diuretic properties. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC. In ancient times, it was also known in Syria and the Iberian Peninsula. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter.
The emperor Caesar Augustus would bark “Velocius quam asparagi conquantur!” or “Faster than cooking asparagus,” which can be loosely translated as, “Get going already!” Augustus organized elite military units to procure it for him and import the best varietals back to Rome, while the fastest runners were employed to carry fresh spears high in the Alps, where it could be frozen for later use.
It takes three years from seed to harvest. Once they get going, asparagus plants can be cropped each spring for 15 years or more.
Everyone makes “asparagus pee,” but not everyone can smell it. We know this because scientists did a blind smell test with 328 lucky participants
China leads the world in asparagus production though productivity has slowed in recent years, at last count there were still 57,000 hectares of asparagus in China. The next closest competitor is Peru with 27,000 hectares, Germany is close behind with 22,000.
There’s a reason Peru is second: The United States pays Peruvian farmers to grow asparagus instead of coca, as part of the war on drugs. This has had the unfortunate effect of depressing the global price of asparagus and making it an unprofitable proposition for American farmers.
White asparagus is one of the most labour-intensive vegetables to grow and its colour, or lack of, comes from how it is harvested. Every spear is handpicked just as the tip begins to show, and excavated to a depth of nine inches. It is then placed in a dark box otherwise it turns pink.
Purple asparagus, on the other hand, is a genetic variety although it reverts to green when cooked.
Sea salt was the asparagus farmer’s original herbicide. Originating in the sandy, sometimes salty, soils of the Mediterranean basin, asparagus tolerates salinity better than the majority of common weeds. Some farmers also use chickens to keep weeds down in their asparagus crop.
Asparagus plants exhibit sexual differentiation. The female plants’ flower, which inhibits growth. For this reason, the main commercial asparagus varieties are genetic male clones.