Scientific Name:Asparagus officinalis
About this Herb:Asparagus officinalis is native to most of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia, and is widely cultivated as a vegetable crop. Asparagus is a herbaceous, perennial plant growing 39 to 59 inches tall, with stout stems and many branched feathery, needle-like leaves. The flowers are bell-shaped, greenish-white to yellowish, 0.18 to 0.26 inches long, with six tepals partially fused together at the base. The blooms are produced singly or in clusters of 2 to 3 at the junctions of the branchlets. It is usually dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants, but sometimes hermaphrodite flowers are found. The fruit is a small red berry 6 to 10 mm diameter and are poisonous to humans.
Only young asparagus shoots are commonly eaten because once the buds start to open ("ferning-out"), the shoots quickly turn woody.
Asparagus is low in calories and is very low in sodium. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, as the asparagus plant is rich in this compound.
Green asparagus is eaten worldwide, though the availability of imports throughout the year has made it less of a delicacy than it once was. Asparagus is very popular in the Netherlands, Spain, France, Poland, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, though it is almost exclusively white asparagus which is locally cultivated and is called "white gold" or "edible ivory" and is also referred to as "the royal vegetable.” It is less bitter and tenderer than the green. Freshness is highly regarded, and it must be peeled before cooking or raw consumption.
Common Names:Sparrow Grass, White Asparagus, Green Asparagus, Wild Asparagus, Bath Asparagus
Uses:Nutrition studies have shown asparagus is a low-calorie source of folate and potassium. Its stalks are high in antioxidants. Asparagus provides essential nutrients: six spears contain some 135 micrograms of folate, almost half the adult recommended daily intake and 20 milligrams of potassium. Folate is said to be the key in taming homocysteine, a substance implicated in heart disease. Folate is also critical for pregnant women, since it protects against neural tube defects in babies. Studies have shown that people who have died from Alzheimer's disease have extremely low to no levels of folate. Several studies indicate getting plenty of potassium may reduce the loss of calcium from the body.
Green asparagus is a good source of vitamin C which helps the body produce and maintain collagen, the major structural protein component of the body's connective tissues.
“Asparagus has long been recognized for its medicinal properties," wrote author of Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks D. Onstad. He said that Asparagus contains substances that act as a diuretic, and that neutralizes the ammonia that makes us tired, as well as some that protect small blood vessels from rupturing and its fiber content makes it a laxative, too.
Water from cooking asparagus may help clear blemishes on the face if used for washing the face morning and night. Cooked asparagus and its watery juices are very good for helping dissolve uric acid (causes gout) deposits in the extremities, as well as inducing urination where such a function may be lacking or only done on an infrequent basis. Asparagus is especially useful in cases of hypertension where the amount of sodium in the blood far exceeds the potassium present.
Applications:Eating: As much as desired.
Capsule: Take as directed.