Superfood on shoots
Late spring means asparagus. This slim, bright green, purple or white vegetable resembles a bunch of small spears growing out of the earth. Its season starts at the beginning of May and lasts till mid June. If you have never tried asparagus before you should imagine a fresh, somewhat earthy flavor with a juicy, firm texture. It is nutritious and well-balanced, moreover, it will provide your system with five different essential vitamins (A, B, C, E, K) as well as potassium which helps the regulation of the nervous system’s functioning.
Historically this vegetable has long been present in Asia and Europe. While in Ancient Greece it was revered more for its medicinal qualities, the Romans started producing asparagus for consumption too. This ancestor looked like what we would call a wild asparagus today: thinner and darker in color, more bitter in taste than the version we can currently find on markets. In Hungary, it was known since the 15th century but has remained a delicacy only nobility could afford until the early 1900s.
Asparagus is still widely spread throughout Europe with Hungary being one of its strong producers. In 2015 Hungary ranked 8th on the list of producers*, cultivating asparagus on an estimated 1400 acres of land.
Did you know?
- White asparagus is grown underground and without photosynthesis, it does not develop the green color
- The Hungarian word for asparagus /spárga/ is actually a homonym. The same word is used for yarn /spárga/ but also the splits /spárga/ in eg. gymnastics.
- Folk tales connect eating asparagus to help with fertility.
- Asparagus cooks so fast that there is even a proverb about it! "Velocius quam aspragi conquantur" means to eat something faster than the time taken to cook asparagus and is attributed to Emperor Augustus.
Asparagus is indeed easy to prepare, however, there are some guidelines in selecting the tastiest bundle. Look for the ones that have firm, compact spears and stronger, brighter color! We also recommend searching for Hungarian products since they are fresher, and by buying them, you support local farmers.
What’s on your plate?
You can eat asparagus as a main or side dish, steam it, grill it, sautée it, either in whole or cut to smaller pieces, you simply cannot go wrong with it. As for taste, the white version is a bit more mellow, but they both work wonders with seasonings of garlic, fresh ground black pepper, or nutmeg. You can enhance the flavors even more by squeezing a few drops of lemon juice on top.
White asparagus combined with root vegetables makes the most delicious cream soup while oven-baked green asparagus works exceptionally good paired with salmon or sprinkled with parmesan cheese. You can also make salads, pies, and sauces with it, or if you’re in a hurry, just steam your asparagus on garlic butter and sprinkle some salt on top.
+ Pro tips (from a Hungarian grandma)
- Don’t eat your asparagus raw. Although young stems are harmless, the older ones can cause mild discomfort when eating raw.
- The easiest way to find out where to trim your asparagus is by pushing your thumbnail into it. The parts that you can pierce easily will be soft and tender when cooked. Cut the asparagus where your nail meets resistance- those parts would come out chewy anyway.
So if you see this vegetable, make sure to grab a handful and prepare it fresh at home! Trust us, both your immune system and tastebuds will love it. Next month, we will bring you the fresh food of June - in the meantime, make the most out of the asparagus season. Jó étvágyat!
Links and sources: HVG ; Asparagus-lover ; Gastrotherapy.blog ; CBS
Source of the pictures: Picture by Valeria Aksakova and Foodiesfeed on Freepik