Eat The Seasons
The British Asparagus season is finally here. Traditionally the season runs from St George’s Day on April 23rd until Midsummer’s Day on June 21st
Finally we are seeing that wonderful vegetable in the shops and there’s no better taste than fresh British asparagus so make the most of the next few weeks.
The quality of asparagus deteriorates pretty quickly after picking so choosing British that may have been picked just a day or so ago against the supermarket imports that are usually available the rest of the year is like chalk and cheese (a bit like having a Michelin starred meal against a fast food burger!)
In the last 10 years UK demand for asparagus has soared by 540 per cent . In 2014 British shoppers spent £65 million buying nine million kilos of asparagus.
Believed to date back more than 2,500 years the word asparagus comes from the Greek asparagos, meaning a shoot or sprout and the Greeks believed it possessed medicinal properties and used it to treat everything from bee stings and toothaches to heart disease.
The Greeks introduced the vegetable to the Romans who believed it to be an aphrodisiac and they even had written instructions on how to grow it. It was highly prized and grown in high walled courtyards and the Romans were the first to preserve the vegetable by freezing, in fact Emperor Augustus even had an Asparagus Fleet to gather and carry the choicest spears to the empire.
The Romans were responsible for introducing asparagus to England where it gradually became popular with the aristocracy and by the 16th century it was being served in the Royal Courts of Europe
In medieval times, the roots were boiled in wine and drunk several days in a row while fasting. This was believed to build up sexual desire in men and women. Madame Pompadour considered asparagus one of her prized aphrodisiacs.
The cultivation of white asparagus (produced by keeping the growing shoots hidden from light under soil) came into vogue in Europe, particularly France in the 19th century but traditionally in the UK the less tender but more fully flavoured green asparagus has been grown.
- Asparagus contains more folic acid (vitamin B9) than any other vegetable, this is needed for the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA, to aid in rapid cell division and growth, to produce healthy red blood cells and is important in pregnancy for the prevention of neural tube defects in the growing foetus.
- Asparagus is a rich source of rutin. Rutin is a compound that strengthens capillary walls.
- Asparagus contains vitamin K, essential for healthy blood clotting, it’s also a rich source of vitamin C which can boost immunity
- Asparagus also contains glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in the body and can help neutralise cell-damaging free radicals that may cause cancer.
- Asparagus contains a carbohydrate called inulin which does not get broken down in the small intestine and when it passes in to the large intestine it becomes food for our beneficial, health promoting bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Inulin is known as a “prebiotic”
- Hence, intake of inulin (asparagus) promotes the growth of good bacteria in the large intestine, which can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and may reduce bloating.
- Asparagus is a natural diuretic.While it is a good source of potassium 6 spears contains around 20mg, it’s also low in sodium. Its minerals combined with asparagine, an active amino acid, makes it an effective diuretic. It is therefore very useful in relieving premenstrual swelling and bloating.
Does your urine smell?
It is thought that the pungent smell from urine soon after eating asparagus comes from a sulphurous compound called mercaptan (also found in rotten eggs, skunk secretions and flatulence!) which is produced when asparagus is digested and can make it’s appearance in your “pee”as soon as 15 minutes after eating.
Are you one of the lucky ones who either doesn’t produce smelly urine or just can’t smell it? It used to be thought that your genes decided if you made this substance or not but more recent studies indicate that we all may make smelly urine but only some of us have the ability to smell it. The debate continues!
Traditionally matched with hollandaise sauce, asparagus picked just a day or so ago (try your nearest farmers’ market) requires minimal messing with. Enjoy it with a drizzle of olive oil, a twist of black pepper and perhaps a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Try asparagus spears as “soldiers” to dip into your boiled eggs for breakfast
Riverford Organics – asparagus recipe ideas
Stupid Easy Paleo – Paleo Roasted Asparagus
Paleo Leap – Asparagus ribbons with lemon dressing
About The Author
She has been helping clients Reclaim Their Health for the last 12 years Her holistic approach to building health can be complementary to and easily integrated with most conventional medical approaches in use today.