Asparagus is a perennial plant species belonging to the Liliaceae family. It mostly develops underground and produces its young, tender shoots, which are the edible part of the plant, in early spring. These have a delicate flavour and if covered with sand as they grow, they remain white, whereas if they are exposed to sunlight, they turn green.
It appears that asparagus plants are native of Mesopotamia. The wild species, growing along the coastline of the Mediterranean, was already known to the ancient Egyptians back in 4000 B.C., but it is the Romans, renowned for their fine palate, who are credited with bringing it to our country.
The name seems to derive from the Persian term “sperega”, meaning“shoot”, which the Greeks then transformed into “asparagos” (i.e. “full of sap”).
Italy, together with the U.S. and France, is one of the greatest producers of asparagus and its cultivation is particularly widespread in Veneto, a region famed for the quality of these vegetables.
Asparagus spears are a refined and expensive ingredient: usually only the tips are consumed, since these are the tastiest and most delicate part, whereas the stem are usually discarded, and only rarely used to enhance the flavour of risottos or other traditional dishes.
Doubtlessly the best way to savour asparagus is to eat them raw, as soon as they are harvested, simply dressed with a delicate vinaigrette.
If however you prefer them cooked, it is best to steam them, so as to preserve their vitamin and mineral content. These vegetables can also be boiled in salted water, standing upright in a tall, narrow saucepan, possibly inside a steel wire basket so that they can be taken out without damaging the delicate tips. Antonia Polese
It is then up to you to find the best recipe for them… Happy Easter!