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Categorized | Diggin' Spring

Asparagus—the Prince and the Pauper

Three kinds of asparagus are shown here: white (rear), green (middle), and wild asparagus (sometimes called  Bath Asparagus) at the front.

Three kinds of asparagus are shown here: white (rear), green (middle), and wild asparagus (sometimes called Bath Asparagus) at the front.

Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

The earliest of our Michigan crops, asparagus usually appears in area Farmers Markets in early May through mid to late June.  A fast growing member of the lily family, asparagus can grow as much as ten inches in a twenty-four hour period.

It is a relative newcomer to the New World, arriving around 1850.  Yet it has been enjoyed for thousands of years, appearing in an Egyptian frieze dating 3000 BC.  Ancient Greeks used it as a medicinal herb for cleansing and healing.

Romans loved asparagus so much they had runners take the produce from the Tiber River Valley up into the Alps to be frozen and preserved for the Feast of Epicurus.  The emperor, Augustus, coined the phrase, “velocius quam asparagi conquatur”—quicker than you can cook asparagus.

Asparagus, long loved by the royals and nobility, was considered the “delicac[y] of princes” and was in constant demand (Asparagus—Sense and Non-sense).  The French King Louis XIV kept hot houses of the plants in order to enjoy them year-round and Madame Pompador dined on the points d’amour on a regular basis. In England, the poor gathered the tender tips and hawked them on the streets.

Likely due to its shape, asparagus was considered to be a phallic symbol in the 19th century and girls in girls schools were prohibited from eating them lest they increase their sexual appetites.  Victorian women were trained to detect the smell in their husband’s urine, a sure sign of depravity.

The urine scent of asparagus eaters has long been debated and studied. Early botanists suggested that the odor was proof that the plant was not fit for consumption. In truth, the odor is the result of aspartic acid, a compound that is largely indigestible, and thus eliminated through kidney function. There are no harmful effects associated with the consumption of asparagus.

On the contrary, asparagus is a low calorie powerhouse, providing vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as bata-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E. vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.  It’s a very good source of protein and dietary fiber as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances insulin’s ability to transport glucose into the cells from the bloodstream.  Ninety-three percent of asparagus is water, making it great for bowel function. It is heart healthy and components of the spears may slow the aging process. Want more reasons to try asparagus? Check out our recipe below.

 

Asparagus with Lemon Pasta

2 ½-3 cups whole grain penne pasta

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cup milk or half and half

2 T. Dijon style mustard

1 T. plus 2 tsp. flour

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

4 T. minced garlic

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)

Lemon peel for garnish (optional)

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper. Set aside. In medium saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat; add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly until tender and lightly browned—about 30 seconds. Add milk mixture to pan. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and one-half of the Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese melts and sauce is thick. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook asparagus in small amount of water until tender crisp—about 2 minutes. Drain and add to pasta. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. If necessary re-heat to desired temperature. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Garnish with basil leaves and lemon peel if desired. Enjoy!

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

Asparagus—the Prince and the Pauper

 

The earliest of our Michigan crops, asparagus usually appears in area Farmers Markets in early May through mid to late June.  A fast growing member of the lily family, asparagus can grow as much as ten inches in a twenty-four hour period.

It is a relative newcomer to the New World, arriving around 1850.  Yet it has been enjoyed for thousands of years, appearing in an Egyptian frieze dating 3000 BC.  Ancient Greeks used it as a medicinal herb for cleansing and healing.

Romans loved asparagus so much they had runners take the produce from the Tiber River Valley up into the Alps to be frozen and preserved for the Feast of Epicurus.  The emperor, Augustus, coined the phrase, “velocius quam asparagi conquatur”—quicker than you can cook asparagus.

Asparagus, long loved by the royals and nobility, was considered the “delicac[y] of princes” and was in constant demand (Asparagus—Sense and Non-sense).  The French King Louis XIV kept hot houses of the plants in order to enjoy them year-round and Madame Pompador dined on the points d’amour on a regular basis. In England, the poor gathered the tender tips and hawked them on the streets.

Likely due to its shape, asparagus was considered to be a phallic symbol in the 19th century and girls in girls schools were prohibited from eating them lest they increase their sexual appetites.  Victorian women were trained to detect the smell in their husband’s urine, a sure sign of depravity.

The urine scent of asparagus eaters has long been debated and studied. Early botanists suggested that the odor was proof that the plant was not fit for consumption. In truth, the odor is the result of aspartic acid, a compound that is largely indigestible, and thus eliminated through kidney function. There are no harmful effects associated with the consumption of asparagus.

On the contrary, asparagus is a low calorie powerhouse, providing vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as bata-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E. vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.  It’s a very good source of protein and dietary fiber as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances insulin’s ability to transport glucose into the cells from the bloodstream.  Ninety-three percent of asparagus is water, making it great for bowel function. It is heart healthy and components of the spears may slow the aging process. Want more reasons to try asparagus? Check out our recipe below.

 

Asparagus with Lemon Pasta

2 ½-3 cups whole grain penne pasta

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cup milk or half and half

2 T. Dijon style mustard

1 T. plus 2 tsp. flour

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

4 T. minced garlic

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)

Lemon peel for garnish (optional)

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper. Set aside. In medium saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat; add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly until tender and lightly browned—about 30 seconds. Add milk mixture to pan. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and one-half of the Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese melts and sauce is thick. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook asparagus in small amount of water until tender crisp—about 2 minutes. Drain and add to pasta. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. If necessary re-heat to desired temperature. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Garnish with basil leaves and lemon peel if desired. Enjoy!

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

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