Asparagus is most commonly grown in the Northern Hemisphere. The most common types of asparagus are white, with a greenish tinge on the shoots; purple, with deep green tips; and dark purple, with a bluish-green tinge.
Asparagus types vary by color, seasonality, and shape. They come in two shapes: pencil-thick spears or rounded clusters of berries. Purple asparagus is not always easy to find in stores because its short growing season lasts only from April until June.
Basic Types Of Asparagus
Also known as greenish white, pale or long white asparagus, this type is the most common. It's grown in Europe and is available from March through November.
White asparagus has more delicate flavor than other colors. When you buy it fresh, choose pencil-thick spears that are firm and crisp but not bendy.
White asparagus has a tough, woody center that must be removed or it will make the spears too stringy to eat. Hold each spear at both ends and bend it. If the spear snaps in two, you've cut into the hard woody section; discard these parts. If the spear bends instead of breaking, it's still good.
White asparagus is most often boiled or steamed. The simplest way to cook asparagus spears in the microwave, place them on a paper towel-covered plate and sprinkle them with water; cover loosely with plastic wrap and vent one corner of the plastic wrap. Microwave for 4 to 5 minutes until crisp-tender.
This asparagus is grown in California.
Purple spears turn green when cooked, making them perfect for serving with seafood. They are available from April through June and can be found at farmers' markets or specialty stores. Choose firm spears that are no thicker than pencils; they should snap easily when bent and not appear rubbery or limp.
Also known as white asparagus, this type is usually grown in Asia. It's available from April through June and at farmers' markets during that period. You can find it fresh or canned.
Green spears are similar to white ones in flavor but not quite as crisp and tender. The centers have a tough woody area, so follow the directions for white asparagus to remove this part. Green asparagus can be cooked like white asparagus but are often steamed rather than boiled.
Specific Types Of Asparagus
This type has short, blunt tips. It's grown primarily in Europe and is available year-round. It can be steamed or boiled but is more often grilled over coals to preserve its bright green color.
Asparagus tips in a restaurant often are Apollo variety, though they also may be purple asparagus. (This kind of asparagus turns green when cooked.) People who pick their own can find Apollo at farmers' markets and stores with produce departments. It's usually sold fresh year-round but is sometimes available fresh or frozen during the off-season.
The long, straight spears of this type are available year-round. Europeans eat pencil asparagus raw in salads and cooked lightly for a side dish. Americans prefer to cook it fully or bake it with cheese on top.
Pencil asparagus is often sold fresh in bundles and also can be found canned or frozen. It's generally available only from December through June, though a handful of farmers in California grow it year-round.
This variety is available fresh only in early spring. It has a strong flavor and brittle texture, making it especially suitable for soups and stews or grilled over coals.
In the U.S., Atlas asparagus is grown primarily in California's Central Valley, with some production in Washington State as well. In Europe, where the variety is prized, it's grown in France and Spain.
In the U.S., the availability of Atlas asparagus coincides with that of other varieties but is shorter -- generally from April or May to July. It's also available canned and frozen.
Jersey Series Asparagus
This asparagus variety is grown in New Jersey and available fresh from May through June. It's a combination of pencil and wild asparagus types, so it has the long, straight shape of pencil with a nutty flavor like wild. Jersey series can be grilled or steamed but is often baked into soufflés, puddings, and other dishes.
Jersey series is increasingly available in packages of three or four spears. It's generally cheaper to buy individual spears, though, and it takes as much time to prepare one spear this way as several that come packaged together.
Connovers Colossal Asparagus
This type is grown in California and available from April through October. It's very large -- sometimes up to six inches wide, making it good for slicing into salads. Connovers are also great grilled or roasted whole and served as an appetizer with dipping sauces. They're excellent boiled if you remove the bottom inch of each spear, which is tough and fibrous.
Connovers are packaged fresh or frozen, though they're often sold in bundles. They also can be found canned.
Viking KB3 Asparagus
Viking KB3, which grow to an average length of one inch (two and a half centimeters), are available fresh year-round. They're great for any cooking method but work especially well when grilled over coals or roasted in foil with flavoring ingredients such as olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and shallots.
This variety was developed in California and made available throughout the U.S. in the late 1990s.
Mary Washington Asparagus
Mary Washington is a hybrid of the Purple Passion and Jersey series varieties. It was created by researchers at the University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Program in 1950. The asparagus spears are thick (2-1/4 inches, or five centimeters) with a white tip, making them great for grilling or roasting whole.
Mary Washington is available almost year-round, though it's most abundant in the mid-Atlantic region from May through June. It can be found fresh, frozen, and canned.
UC 157 Asparagus
This variety was created at the University of California's Asparagus Breeding program in Davis by crossing Mary Washington and Jersey series types. UC 157 has a mild flavor and is available fresh from May through November, though it can be found frozen year-round. The spears are about 2 inches (five centimeters) wide and 4-1/2 inches (12 centimeters) long -- making them a good size for slicing and serving raw in salads.
UC 157 asparagus is grown primarily in California's Central Valley, with some production in Mexico. It is packaged fresh and frozen but also can be found canned.
Gijnlim F1 hybrid Asparagus
Gijnlim is a cross between Jersey series and Oregon Green that was developed to produce spears with greater uniformity. It tends to be sold in bundles wrapped together by the crown instead of individually packaged.
This type is grown primarily in California's Central Valley but also can be found fresh from late spring through the fall in the Midwest. It can also be found frozen and canned, though it's usually frozen into steaks or cut into pieces rather than sold whole. Gijnlim is very long-lasting when kept below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius).
Backlim F1 Hybrid Asparagus
Backlim was released in 1998 and is a cross between Oregon Green and Jersey series. It's also resistant to fusarium wilt, making it ideal for areas affected by this disease. Backlim has white or greenish-white tips that are sweet with strong flavor.
It's found fresh year-round in the mid-Atlantic states, and is available frozen elsewhere.
Purple Passion Asparagus
This type is a hybrid that was developed in California by leading asparagus growers. It's available fresh year-round, and can sometimes be found frozen or canned. Purple Passion has green spears with purple tips; it's especially good for grilling or roasting whole.
Diablo F1 Hybrid Asparagus
The spears are about 1-1/4 inches (3 centimeters) wide, making them ideal for steaming or roasting whole. They're thick with smooth skin. It's available fresh year-round in the northeastern states, with some production in California's Central Valley. Diablo is usually flash-frozen immediately after harvest.
‘Precoce D’Argenteuil’ Asparagus
This variety has greenish-white tips, and the spears are thicker than those of most hybrid varieties. The spears can grow to 20 inches (50 centimeters) in length but usually are harvested when they're between 10 and 12 inches (25 and 30 centimeters) long -- making them ideal for slicing or serving raw in salads.
This asparagus is a product of France and can be found fresh from spring through summer in that country. It's also available frozen throughout the rest of the year, though it may sometimes be labeled "early white." This variety is especially good for roasting whole.
This variety was first crossed in California and then selected in Italy. It has green spears with white tips, and the skin is a bit rough. The flavor is stronger than most hybrids, but it's still milder than that of Jersey series breeds.
Mondeo is found fresh year-round in Italy and parts of Europe, making it ideal for those who enjoy variety. It's also available frozen and canned, though it's usually sold whole rather than cut into pieces.
Thielim F1 Hybrid Asparagus
Thielim is one of the most popular hybrid asparagus varieties in the U.S., but it's produced primarily in California's Central Valley and parts of Mexico. It has green spears with smooth skin, with a milder flavor than that of Jersey series types.
Thielim is usually sold fresh year-round in the northeastern states (but not California), and typically is shipped as whole spears. It can sometimes be found frozen, but usually it's canned; it's sold either in pieces or still attached to a stem.
Eros F1 Hybrid Asparagus
Eros is a variety that was first bred in the Netherlands and then developed in California. It's available fresh year-round in Europe, since it's hardy enough to produce there year-round despite cold weather.
In Europe, it's usually sold as whole spears rather than cut into pieces. In the U.S., Eros is sold fresh year-round in the northeastern states.
How do you cook with Asparagus?
Asparagus is considered an extremely versatile vegetable. It can be steamed, boiled, baked, grilled or roasted. Traditionally, asparagus was used in soups or stews in times of lean living and also used in cooking fish to eliminate any "fishy" smell and taste.
With a little creativity, it's easy to incorporate this delicious and nutritious vegetable into any meal of the day. Have asparagus once or twice a week with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Add asparagus to soups, stir-fry dishes, pasta dishes and salads for extra color and taste. It's one of the few green vegetables that can be served with other dishes.
How do you store Asparagus?
Asparagus doesn't require any extra storage. If stored in a plastic bag, it will stay fresh for up to 7 days and if stored in your vegetable crisper or refrigerator you can keep asparagus fresh for up to 3 days.
What is the nutritional information of Asparagus?
Asparagus is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It's a good source of niacin, folic acid and vitamins A, C, E and K along with dietary fiber. The mineral content of asparagus include iron, calcium, potassium and manganese.
Asparagus also contains phytochemicals that may prevent or delay the progress of certain types of cancer.
What is Asparagus allergy?
Some people who eat asparagus experience an allergic reaction characterized by a tingling sensation in the mouth and lips followed by swelling which can spread to other parts of the body. The most severe symptom is shortness of breath due to swelling of the tongue and throat. If you suspect an allergic reaction, seek help at once.
Asparagus is not your normal vegetable?
No it's not, but I am a fan now and as it has been said "The best way to learn new things is by trial and error".
Give it a try, I know you will enjoy the new taste and asparagus is good for your health too!
What is Asparagus season?
As far as I know, April to June are considered peak seasons. But asparagus is available all year long.
Here in the Philippines, asparagus is on the other hand a very expensive vegetable. They are only found in farmers' markets and even then they are priced at Php 70-80 per bunch.
The season for asparagus on the other side is different too, in California it's April to June while in India it's September to November.
The best time of the year to buy Asparagus is from April to June.
What part of the plant does asparagus come from?
Asparagus are green immature shoots of a flowering perennial plant, native to most parts of Europe and western Asia, which belong to the lily family (Liliaceae). The scientific name of asparagus is Asparagus officinalis.
What does Asparagus taste like and what are its uses?
Asparagus has a distinct flavor, which becomes more pronounced when the shoots are cooked. The flavor of asparagus can be described as sweet yet slightly acidic at the same time. It tastes best when eaten freshly picked from the garden.
Asparagus contains good amounts of vitamin C, A and K as well as minerals such as iron, manganese and selenium. It is also a good source of dietary fiber so it can help you keep your diet balanced.
It contains plenty of folic acid that helps reduce homocysteine levels which may help protect you against heart disease. Asparagus is also good for your eyes due to the presence of beta-carotene and lutein which reduce your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Asparagus have long been known to be a great detoxifier, they make urine more acidic, resulting in less formation of kidney stones.
Asparagus is also said to increase sperm count and provide a boost in testosterone levels for men. They are also known to improve erection quality and sexual desire, making it an ideal food for older men who have indulged in too much red meat or alcohol which tends to lower those hormones.
Asparagus has been eaten for thousands of years, and is a healthy addition to any diet. Our ancestors ate it in their well-rounded meal plans before the introduction of McDonald's and KFC. Let's all make an effort to include as many fresh items like asparagus on our plates. If you enjoyed this article please consider sharing it and please leave us a comment!