10 Annotations

First Reading

David Quidnunc  •  Link


"[A]sparagus is a perennial that may be productive for twenty to twenty-five years and possibly more with good care. Requiring sunny days for maximum photosynthesis, asparagus prefers deep well-drained soils and should have two full growing seasons before the spears are harvested. Generally, a forty-foot row of five-year-old asparagus plants yields about ten to twenty-five pounds of spears during an average growing season."

"Because of the nature of asparagus, the crop is very labor intensive. Spears are hand-harvested every day or every other day depending on the weather by an experienced asparagus worker."

"Tradition holds that asparagus, a springtime vegetable, disappears in the fires of St. John the Baptist's day (June 24), in the first heat of summer."

"The British asparagus season traditionally ran from 1 May to 21 June, ...

"John Burton Race, the TV chef, 'In England it's terrific; don't buy out of season from around the world, because it's tasteless.'

"Asparagus is planted in the ground three years before it can be harvested for the full season. Farmers only harvest for a short period of time the first few years to allow for further growth. Commercial plantings generally lasts eight to twelve years, depending on various factors."

-- From: "Here's a hot tip: asparagus is the new Beaujolais" by David Smith, The Observer, Sunday, 3 April 2005

[I think the following applies to modern varieties and hot, Californian or Mexican weather:]
"Under ideal conditions, it can grow up to 10 inches in a day and reach up to 12 feet in height."

"It thrives along riverbanks, shores of lakes, and even close to the salty waters of seacoasts, tolerating considerable salt in the soil in which it grows. It has been found "wild" in so many places that there has been much argument as to where it actually originated."
"Asparagus is a perennial plant which, under the best conditions, will remain productive up to 30 to 35 years and will live much longer. Formerly it was grown almost entirely with the soil ridged up high over the roots at harvest time so that the shoots would develop in the dark and be white, as harvested. Now, however, we have learned to prefer green shoots which develop in the light, so that ridging is no longer so common."

"White asparagus, which are more popular in Europe, are grown underground to prevent the development of chlorophyll. They are tenderer with a mild and nuttier taste. However, no matter what size, their exteriors are fibrous and always need to be peeled."

"With its high tolerance for salt and its preference for sandy soils, wild asparagus grows in such diverse places as England, Russia, Poland ... Syria and Spain ..."

David Quidnunc  •  Link


"In 16th [sic] century England the word "sperage" was apparently used to describe the plant, for Evelyn describes "sperage" in his diary as "delicious eaten raw with oyl and vinegar." [Of course, John Evelyn was writing in the 17th century]

-- Excerpted from Ehlert, G.R. and R.A. Seelig. 1966 October. "Fruit & Vegetable Facts & Pointers: Asparagus"; United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, D.C.

"'This vegetable is suitable only for the rich, since it lacks substance and has mild aphrodisiac qualities. It is a delicate food.' La R

David Quidnunc  •  Link


For centuries, asparagus was considered a luxury and praised for its distinctive flavour by such famous figures as Julius Caesar, Louis XIV and Thomas Jefferson."

"Asparagus derived its name from the ancient Greeks, who used the word to refer to all tender shoots picked and savored while very young. Asparagus is a member of the Lily family. Widely cultivated for its tender, succulent, edible shoots, asparagus cultivation began more than 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region. Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture and alleged medicinal qualities. They ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter."
"As early as 200 B.C. the Romans had how-to-grow directions for asparagus. They enjoyed it in season and were the first to preserve it by freezing. In the 1st Century fast chariots and runners took asparagus from the Tiber River area to the snowline of the Alps where it was kept for six months until the Feast of Epicurus. Roman emperors maintained special asparagus fleets to gather and carry the choicest spears to the empire. The characteristics of asparagus were so well-known to the ancients that Emperor Caesar Augustus described 'haste' to his underlings as being 'quicker than you can cook asparagus.'"


The Emperor Augustus coined the phrase

David Quidnunc  •  Link


"In medieval times, the roots were boiled in wine and drunk several days in a row while fasting. This was believed to build up sexual desire in men and women. Madame Pompadour considered asparagus one of her prized aphrodisiacs.

"For over 2000 years people believed asparagus had medicinal properties. It was used as a laxative, to improve eyesight and also to ease toothache."

David Quidnunc  •  Link


"Asparagus can take the pain out of a bee sting - just crush it up and apply to the area around the sting."

Asparagus is a member of the lily family and is related to onions, leeks, and garlic. It contains more cancer-fighting glutathione than any other food. It's packed with folic acid, which helps to prevent birth defects and heart disease, and it's a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamins A, D, B6, and thiamin. And it is rich in rutin, which helps strengthen blood vessels.

Health-conscious dieters will be pleased to know that asparagus contains no fat and no cholesterol. It's low in sodium, and contains only 20 calories per serving.

David Quidnunc  •  Link


"And in case you're wondering, the reason your urine smells after consuming asparagus is because it contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan. Enzymes in your body break down the mercaptan into its stinky component parts. There is disagreement within the scientific community over which of these constituents is the fowl-smelling culprit. Moreover, because of human genetic variability, not everyone has the enzymes to metabolize mercaptan so some individuals will not produce urinary odor. And to take it one step further, there is even genetic diversity in our ability to detect the odor. Thus, some may have it without knowing it."

David Quidnunc  •  Link

"'Spargel' is German for asparagus. For six weeks in May and June, it

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Des asperges au jus clair.
Asparagus with clear gravy.

For this trim and scrape your grass neat and clean, set them over the fire in but little cold water and salt: the reason of this is, the French prefer a crispness and yellow in asparagus and French beans, to what we are always in so much care to make green and tender; but they eat it (as they do many other vegetables) for a hot sallet; boil your grass but a little time, and serve them to table with nothing but gravy and the juice of oranges or lemons. French beans whole are done in the same manner frequently.
---A Complete System of Cookery. W. Verral, 1759.

(Exactly the way I cook them, nothing worse than tender asparagus, but mine are indeed always green.)

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Asparagus was introduced into Britain in the 17th century. In 1667, diarist Samuel Pepys wrote about buying a “hundred of sparrow-grass” at Fenchurch Street in London.

By 1768, asparagus was being grown in Evesham and sent for sale in Bath and Bristol.

Asparagus is a crop that requires time and patience. It takes 4 years to grow to maturity before it’s ready for cutting, and the spears can only be cut for a short season, traditionally between April 23 (St. George’s Day) and June 21 (Midsummer’s Day). After that, it has to be left to grow and gain strength for the next year’s crop.

An asparagus plant can remain viable for 20 years or more.

Asparagas remains a way of life in the Vale of Evesham. St. Leonard’s Church in Bretforton has an asparagus stained-glass window, and the local Round of Gras pub pays tribute with both its name and a seasonal asparagus menu.

The term “a round of gras” is also unique to the area. A round of asparagus contains 15 spears, and can be combined into a larger bundle known as “a hundred,” consisting of 120 spears.

THE PICTURESQUE VILLAGE OF BRETFORTON, in Worcestershire, England, has a unique claim to fame. Over 240 acres of land surrounding the village used to be dedicated to asparagus.

Known locally as “Vale gras” or simply “gras,” Vale of Evesham asparagus is unique. What makes it different than any other asparagus?

The answer lies in the terroir. Unlike the sandy soils found in other asparagus regions, Vale asparagus is grown in heavy clay. In addition, the Vale of Evesham has a warm, dry microclimate. These factors combined result in a slightly sweet asparagus that’s succulent and tender, despite its thicker stem.

Highlights from https://www.atlasobscura.com/arti…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



  • May