Asparagus officinalis, or simply asparagus, is a flowering perennial and cousin to garlic and onion. Native to Africa, Asia and Europe, asparagus is not only enjoyed as food but is also used in medicine due, in part, to its diuretic properties (source).
Grown in saline soils, asparagus crowns are planted in winter, and shoots begin to peek out of the soil in spring. White asparagus, which is the same botanical variety as green asparagus, obtains its color via a blanching process, which involves covering the growing shoots with soil in order to prevent photosynthesis from occurring. The result is a pale, less bitter, tender shoot sometimes referred to as “the royal vegetable.” Purple asparagus differs from the green and white varieties in that not only is it a different color, it was developed by means of a different process. Asparagus is typically cultivated when young, otherwise the shoots can become woody in texture.
Providing a plethora of nutrients, asparagus is a very good source of beta-carotene, chromium, copper, dietary fiber, iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, rutin, selenium, thiamine and vitamins C, E and K. Also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and zinc, asparagus is low in calories and sodium, and is made up of approximately 93% water (source).
Asparagus is very easy to prepare. Simply spray it with a light coating of oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then bake in the oven until crisp tender.
Interesting fact: In Turkish, asparagus is called “kuşkonmaz,” which literally translates to “bird can’t land.” This is in reference to the shape of the vegetable.