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Asparagus dates back to ancient times and was often used medicinally as a diuretic. The oldest known book of food recipes dates back to the third century; asparagus is found in that book. It was said to be grown by ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans.

Where is Asparagus Grown?

Asparagus was said to be grown by ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans whom at the vegetable fresh and learned to dry it for use when it was out of season.  Asparagus became a popular food source among many cultures in the 17th century.  

Peru is the leading producer of asparagus followed closely by Mexico and China.  The United States imports over 92 thousand tons a year.  It is grown in the United States in Michigan, California, and Washington producing over 54 thousand acres and harvesting over 90 thousand tons.  

How to grow Asparagus

Asparagus plants can yield fruit for up to fifteen years so it is important to make a plant bed that will not be disturbed.  It should be grown in full or partial sun, but does better if exposed to full sunlight.  Asparagus is seldom started as seed; growers plant what is known as “crowns” which are root systems that are already started.  Crowns should be planted the first of spring in cool climates and planted in the latter part of winter in warm climates.   Soil should be rich with organic matter.  Plant the crowns approximately 12-16 inches from each other in rows that are at least four feet apart.  The plant bed should be weeded regularly and is best to use mulch in the bed.  Water only if there has not been any rainfall.  You should not harvest any of the asparagus spears the first year as they are needed to “fern out” which helps the roots to grow stronger.  By the third season you can harvest as much as you like until the spears that come up are too small to harvest.  

Nutrients Found in Asparagus

Asparagus is a very good source of calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth.  It is also high in Vitamin C which is known for supporting and maintaining a healthy immune system and fighting off infections. It is well known for being an excellent food to help prevent cancer. Asparagus is also a good source of Vitamin K, which is needed to help the body heal as it is necessary for clotting blood.  It is an excellent food to receive the necessary dietary fiber our bodies need to help the digestive system run properly.  Asparagus is rich in iron, potassium, and manganese, all of which are essential vitamins and minerals to help with proper cellular growth and maintain healthy red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout our body.  It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol which makes this a very good food to help reduce the risk of heart related diseases.  

Healthy Ways to Prepare Asparagus

One of the healthiest ways to prepare asparagus is to steam them slightly; just enough to make them a bit more tender but keeping them crisp.  Once they are steamed they can be served hot or chilled in a salad.  Asparagus should not be overcooked; it is most nutritious if it is served crisp.  Served as a side dish or salad, toping it with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice makes it a healthy and very tasty way to prepare it.   

Health Benefits of Asparagus

The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that dietary fiber is extremely important, especially in the elderly, to help prevent constipation which can result in further digestive problems and can cause hemorrhoids. [1]   Asparagus is an excellent source of dietary fiber and can help reduce or eliminate constipation and other digestive system illnesses.  Asparagus is rich in antioxidants which are essential to help build a strong immune system and fight off harmful infections.  It is high in Vitamin K which helps promote a faster healing to wounds as Vitamin K is needed to help in the clotting factor of blood.  It is rich in iron which helps to keep the cells in our bodies oxygenated which then travels throughout the body dispensing oxygen rich blood to our muscles and other systems of our body.  Asparagus is low in cholesterol and saturated fat which makes this a very good food to add to the diet to help reduce the risk of heart related diseases.  Because asparagus contains folate it is a good food to eat if your are pregnant as it is shown to help reduce the risk of birth defects.  

Asparagus is one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet to help protect your body from infections as well as cancer.  It has the potential to be a super food as it is packed full of vitamins and taste.

  • Spinzi G, Amato A, Imperiali G, Lenoci N, Mandelli G, Paggi S, Radaelli F, Terreni N, Terruzzi V. Constipation in the elderly: management strategies. Division of Gastroenterology, Valduce Hospital, Como, Italy. 2009
  • 26(6):469-74. doi: 10.2165/00002512-200926060-00003.
  • Photo courtesy of buchmanphoto on Flickr: