botanical name: Asparagus officinalis
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Even from ancient times certain foods, considered particularly tasty, were often reserved only at the table of kings and emperors. Asparagus and lettuce are among the vegetables delicacies whose consumption was once banned or prohibitively expensive for ordinary people, because of the rarity or the excessive cost. Now you can extend the period of production (unfortunately been reduced as in the case of this delightful shoot) and the prices are definitely more affordable, as well as the varieties created over time - especially since the eighteenth century - are more numerous, while the flavor, color and especially the yield provide further differentiation between the types.
Origins and history
Originating probably from Asia Minor but also spread in North Africa and Central and Southern Europe, it was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, known to the Greeks - for example, the writer and botanist Theoprastus, speak about it - and was highly appreciated by the Romans, who have left meticulous manuals on their cultivation and accurate preparation tips. Some emperors even ordered the construction of vessels specially designed to procure this vegetable in remote production areas. Cultivated in Byzantium already in 1100, in the rest of Europe it spread following the example of France, which started to grow it in the fifteenth century. In Great Britain the popularity of the asparagus came to a head in the next century, while only later was introduced in North America.
Nutritional properties and benefits
t belongs to the family of Umbelliferae, ie the same as garlic and onions, with which the shoots - or the part of the asparagus we eat - has in common the abundance of vitamin A, PP, group B and minerals such as phosphorus and manganese. The distinctive, unpleasant odor urine perceptible already a few minutes after consumption is due to an acid containing sulfur and characteristic of this plant, better known and more and - as to positives - for its diuretic effects. It also has slightly laxative capacity and galattagoghe - ie, stimulates the secretion of milk.
The Asparagus's use in cooking
Delicious simply steamed, alone or seasoned with a little oil, asparagus is the time satiating enough - in fact, it contains a fair amount of fiber - and can be recommended in diets that link to slimming due to the low amount of calories that provides and the diuretic effect. The wealth of trace elements and the light and unmistakable flavor make it valuable for a feed at the same time healthy and rich in taste.
Deleted the whitish terminal part (that is fibrous, almost tasteless and poor in nutrients), the rest of the stem can boil immersing with the tips upward, kept out of the water because very delicate and to preserve the best taste. For those who have no particular weight or health problems, asparagus can be appreciated simply by serving with mayonnaise, or in a pan capable enough with of poached eggs or a fried. Also, you can cover with the type asiago cheese, sprinkle with salt and pepper and let it all lightly browning.
An asparagus risotto enriched with little orange peel, cut into thin threads and crushed pistachios could become an excellent first course a bit 'special. In the cold months you can pamper yourself with a Zuppa Pavese enriched with bits and pieces of the stem, or prepare a savory pie - perfect for a buffet - adding it to escarole, mozzarella and gorgonzola.
What we eat is neither a root or the stem of the plant, but the "shoot", the part derived from the rhizomes (modified stems) that rises to the surface of the ground and in the white varieties is topped up - that is, covered by the ground - to increase the delicacy and it takes on the pale color.
For consumption it is absolutely necessary some form of cooking and there are also spontaneous variety, which are however very bitter.
A successful painting by Edouard Manet portrays a bunch of asparagus, vegetable often depicted in still lifes of many Flemish and Dutch artists the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, besides appearing also in "portraits" of fruit and vegetable compounds by the Italian Arcimboldo.