Asparagus originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and was a favourite of the Greeks and Romans who used it as a medicine.
In parts of Europe, Turkey, Africa, Middle East and Asia, varieties of asparagus grow wild.
In some countries people prefer to eat white asparagus (it stays white because it is grown covered in soil), but New Zealanders like it green and there is little, if any, white asparagus grown here. Purple asparagus is increasingly available in New Zealand.
What to look for
Choose straight firm green stems. Insist on fresh, clean product with trimmed ends and a minimum of white butt. Fresh asparagus is ‘squeaky’ – when the spears are gently rubbed they squeak; old asparagus is rubbery and doesn’t squeak.
September, October, November, December.
Note: supplies are sometimes available earlier or later depending on the season.
Keep asparagus refrigerated with butt ends either wrapped in wet paper towels, stand up in a jar with 1-2 cm of water (like flowers in a vase), or alternatively wash, then refrigerate in plastic bags.
How to prepare
Snap or slice off tough ends. These ends can used to flavour soups or stocks. Cooked asparagus should be tender but slightly crisp. For maximum flavour, don’t overcook. Asparagus for use in salads is generally blanched, however, if the asparagus is thin and fresh it can be used raw. Purple asparagus is often eaten raw as it is sweeter and more tender than green. To retain the purple colour, add a little lemon juice or vinegar when cooking and cook for a very short time using a method such as stir frying.
Ways to eat
Lightly steam, stir fry, microwave, boil, bake or barbecue asparagus. Serve asparagus with hollandaise or aioli, or use in soups, quiches, pies, salads, stir fries, or eat with fresh bread.
Boil, braise, char grill/barbecue, microwave, roast, steam, stir fry.
|Steamed, drained, combined cultivars|
|Serving size: 5 spears 78g|
|Fat, total (g)||0.23||0.03%||0.3|
|- saturated (g)||0.052||0.02%||0.067|
|- sugars (g)||1.25||1.70%||1.6|
|Dietary fibre (g)||1.2||4%||1.5|
|Folate (µg)||67.86||33.9 RDI*||87||A good source of Folate|
|Vitamin C (mg)||3.9||12.5% RDI*||5||A source of Vitamin C|
|Riboflavin (mg)||0.17||10% RDI*||0.22||A source of Riboflavin|
|Potassium (mg)||206.7||265||Contains Potassium|
|Niacin (mg)||0.69||8.8% RDI*||0.88|
|Vitamin E (mg)||0.84||8.4% RDI*||1.08|
|Thiamin (mg)||0.08||7.2% RDI*||0.1|
|Vitamin A Equiv. (µg)||52.88||7.1% RDI*||67.8|
|Iron (mg)||0.47||3.9% RDI*||0.6|
|Zinc (mg)||0.47||3.9% RDI*||0.6|
|Selenium (µg)||2.18||3.1% RDI*||2.8|
|Calcium (mg)||14.82||1.8% RDI*||19|
|Vitamin B6 (mg)||0.008||0.05% RDI*||0.01|
Percentage Daily Intakes are based on an average adult diet of 8700 kJ
Source: The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 10th Edition, Plant & Food Research - 2014
Asparagus is one of the highest vegetable sources of folate and is also a source of riboflavin, vitamin C plus contains a dietary significant amount of potassium. Asparagus contains a range of phytonutrients, particularly from the phenolic and carotenoid groups.
Asparagus is one of the most highly perishable vegetables so special care must be taken. Make sure displays contain only crisp snappy spears. Discard any limp or damaged spears. Display with butt ends on wet foam pads as the butt end must be kept wet to avoid dehydration. Trim butt ends daily to maintain a fresh crisp product. Bring out only what is required for display and replenish the display from the chiller. It is better to keep the display relatively small and keep restocking it. Return unsold stock to the chiller at the end of the day. Use QR code on labels.
Store at 2-4ºC with approximately 95% relative humidity. Asparagus has a high water content and will lose water if stored in a dry environment. Store with butt ends on wet foam pads. Asparagus is ethylene sensitive so store separately from ethylene producing produce.
Purchase asparagus with the New Zealand GAP logo.
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