As we approach the last weeks of the asparagus season, our team at Choco explores the history and key facts to inspire all chefs and suppliers handling this nutrient-packed seasonal ingredient. Here is all you need to know about its quality, taste, and supply chain, from how to store asparagus to finding the best pairings.
The origin of Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is disputed among Europe, West Asia, and North Africa, while its domestication is traced around 200 BC in the Roman Empire. Also called “sparrow grass”, this ingredient has been used worldwide for its distinct taste, as well as aphrodisiacal and medicinal properties.
During the 15th century, asparagus was cultivated in French monasteries and became a popular ingredient, especially with the “Asperges à la Pompadour” - one of the favorite dishes of Madame de Pompadour, chief mistress of Louis XV - two centuries later. It was the Dutch, however, that brought this delicacy to the US.
When is it in season in the US
In the US, asparagus is in season From February to June.
What about the different types of asparagus?
While green asparagus are without any doubt the most popular type worldwide, purple and white asparagus are also a popular choice among chefs and foodies. Also, there is a growing hype for thinner and longer wild asparagus. Spear appearance is highlighted as the primary criteria among the main ways to recognize the quality of asparagus. Hence, you should opt for asparagus with bright colors and compact tips.
A bit about the supply-chain of asparagus
The main asparagus-producing country is China, accounting for approximately 8 million tons of annual produce, followed by Peru, Mexico, and Germany. Among the largest asparagus importers are the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.
Due to their grassy and earthy taste, asparagus is best paired with sweeter, milder, or fatty ingredients. Among the classic pairings and recipes with asparagus are eggs and hollandaise sauce, grilled salmon, fried chicken, risotto, or crispy bacon. When mixing asparagus in a salad, you can opt for herbs like dill, tarragon, or chives. while For a more unique combination, be brave to choose strawberries, licorice, and even chocolate.
Feasts & folklore
Asparagus is widely known as an aphrodisiac ingredient: the Vegetarian Society suggests that three days of asparagus consumption can lead to its stimulating effect (source: Eat Something Sexy).
The science behind the myth reveals that asparagus is rich in vitamin B6 and folate content boost stimulation, while vitamin E is responsible for sex hormone productions.
Although the usage of asparagus as an aphrodisiac food became more popular during the middle ages, the later Romans already used it to celebrate the Feast of Epicurious, as a medical herb to help sexual fatigue.
And to conclude, the most commonly asked question from chefs about this produce: how to store asparagus
Besides the countless recipes and historic facts around this season’s favorite, the most commonly asked question by chefs and foodies online is how to store asparagus. Storing asparagus correctly helps extend its shelf-life and preserve its organoleptic properties.
Proper storage is quite crucial given that the product would otherwise go bad very easily - think of them as if they were fresh-cut flowers. Here’s how to preserve asparagus in three small steps: you should trim the bottoms of about 1 inch, refrigerate the product (ideally, at a 32-35 °F) in a jar or container with about one inch of water, and use a covering material. And of course, make sure you change the water daily! When properly stored, asparagus should last for up to 5 days.
As for storing fresh produce in your restaurant, keep in mind that ingredients like asparagus are sensitive to ethylene. This substance is a natural hormone produced by plants as a gas, causing seeds sprouting, ripening, as well as spoilage.
It is crucial to separate asparagus from ethylene potent producing products such as apples, avocados, bananas, kiwi, peaches, peppers, plums, and tomatoes. This will allow you to preserve your asparagus and reduce food waste in your kitchen.