Asparagus – the thousands-of-years-old, pencil-like shoots

Posted on 2 min read

For more than 5,000 years (if you believe Egyptian friezes), farmers have been harvesting green pencil-like shoots (also known as asparagus).

Although known amongst farmers, it is a slow-starting crop. It takes about 2-3 years for the asparagus plant to establish itself before it can be harvested.

And it’s an absolute delight when it comes to cooking. Blanched, sautéed, roasted or grilled – you can’t go wrong with it!

Asparagus shoots make an easy and vibrant appetizer or an accompanying dish with little to no effort.

Augustus Caesar’s quote about asparagus

In fact, emperor Augustus Caesar would say “Velocius quam asparagi conquantur!”. It means “Faster than cooking asparagus!”. And in his terms, it meant that he wanted his commands to be obeyed swiftly. He was a big fan of the plant. And he would even employ the army to procure this delicious delicacy.

When the shoots appear above the ground, you have carefully dig down around 9 inches / 22 cm into the soil. Then you cut the stalks at the base.

Are you are like the emperor in your taste for asparagus? Then there is no time to waste! Let’s get going and prepare an easy yet flavoursome appetizer.

An easy asparagus-starter

Cut or simply break the hard woody ends of each asparagus shoot off by hand. Take a skillet, and put it on high heat. Make sure it is very hot before placing the shoots into the pan. No oil or butter is needed at this point.

Heat the stalks through, and when they start to give off an aroma, splash in some olive oil. Let them sizzle for a couple of minutes.

Then chuck in a knob of butter. Add some freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of lemon juice. It’s now ready to be served on its own. Or use it as an effortless side accompaniment to your preferred fish or chicken dish.

More fun facts about asparagus

Speaking of chickens, here’s one more fun fact for you. Welsh farmers would let chickens roam freely near asparagus beds. The birds would weed the ground yet avoid harming the asparagus plant. Such cute little helpers!

Asparagus originated in Northern Europe. But today, they are commonly farmed in China. A whopping 57,000 hectares of land turned over to its production.

Asparagus à la Asia

We all know the main recipe for asparagus. Yes, French Hollandaise sauce with poached eggs. But why not give a more original Asian-oriented recipe at try?

Ingredients:

  • 1,5 lbs / 500 g fresh asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • toasted sesame seeds

Preparation:

  1. Trim the asparagus.
  2. Preheat a griddle to the high seating.
  3. In a bowl, mix the stalks with the sesame oil and soy sauce.
  4. Add the garlic cloves and brown sugar.
  5. Coat your asparagus evenly before transferring it to the lightly-oiled griddle.
  6. Let it cook for 8 minutes.
  7. Finally, scatter some sesame seeds over it and serve.

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