Asparagus has been used from very early times as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavour and diuretic properties. There is a recipe for cooking asparagus in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’s third century AD De re coquinaria, Book III. It is said that it was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter. It lost its popularity in the Middle Ages but returned to favour in the seventeenth century.
It is recognized in many quarters as natural medicine:
-Asparagus rhizomes and root are used ethnomedically to treat urinary tract infections, as well as kidney and bladder stones.
-Asparagus is also believed to have aphrodisiac properties (this belief is at least partially due to the phallic shape of the shoots).
-Season (in Japan): May~June
They are at their best March~June in the Northern Hemisphere, but can be obtained all year round thanks to state-of-the-art greenhouse cultivation.
-Analytic data (as per 100g):
Energy: 22 kcal
Water: 92.6 g
Carbohydrates: 3.9 g
Potassium: 270 mg
Iron: 0,7 mg
Zinc: 60 mg
A alpha caroatene: 380 microg
B1: 0.14 mg
B2: 0.15 mg
B6: 0.12 mg
Leafy acid: 190 microg
C: 15 mg
Dietary fibers: 1.8 g
-When combined with seaweed, or carrot, or broccoli, or spinach, provides stamina and helps combat cancer and colds.
-When combined with shellfish, or chicken, or turnips, or red-fleshed fat fish, helps combat liver problems and provides stamina.
-When combined with okra, or avocado, or celery, or garlic, heps combat cancer, high blood pressure and heart diseases.
-When combined with onion, or codfish, or tofu (especially yuba), or konnyaku/devil’s tongue tuber-elephant’s foot tuber, helps with qaulity and flow of blood, helps combat obesity and blood vessel hardening.
Most popular varieties are shown in the picture above: White, Green and “wild-style” (apeelations vary!)
Asparaguses are abundant in the wild, but they grow very quickly and get too hard for consumption.
The wild ones picked in their natural environment are my favourite as I fondly remember picking them up as a soldier in the South of France during our drills and cooking them in simple omelettes!
Violet asparaguse are very popular in any restaurants!
Mini-asparaguses are ever so popular in Japan thanks to their practical size.
-Choose asparaguses with a clean cutting surface. No black spots should appear.
-The darker the colour, the better. As for white asparaguses, choses with a “wet cutting”
-When storing your asparaguses in the fridge, have them stand upright in a long narrow container with their foot wrapped in wet kitchen paper. Discard bent asparaguses on the supermarket stands.
-Choose green asparaguses with the smallest possible foliage along the stems and dark tips.
-When boiling them, either boil them stading upright inside a pasta mesh container, or absolutely flat in a sauce pan. Do not bend them.
-Asparaguses are best digested when lightly fried with oil.
-If Asparaguses cannot be obtained directly from the farmer, lightly peel but keep yop half as it is to preserve Vitamins.
Recipes are endless, but my favourite is the large green asparaguses and mozzarella gratin as prepared and served at Uzu/うず Izakaya in Shizuoka City!
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