France's Sun King, Louis XIV (1643-1715) had such a passion for the asparagus, he ordered shipments of the vegetable from renowned Versailles gardener Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie from December onwards. The delicacy was considered the tender king of all vegetables.
Asparagus has been called "bliss for around a pound," by food writer Nigel Slater. A member of the Lily family, "asparagus" is Greek for stalk or shoot and was first cultivated in Greece over 2,000 years ago.
"Their sole reason for living," observed Roman lawyer and satirist Deimus Juvenal, "lies in their palate."
Asparagus is a nutrient-dense food having more folacin (the cancer preventer) per serving than any other vegetable. The perennial plant with the underground stem is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin. One cup contains more protein than a cup of cooked cornmeal.
Erect or climbing, this plant has no fat, contains no cholesterol, and is low in sodium. And it is delicious steamed and plain or topped with cheese, butter, or hollandaise sauce.
As English essayist and poet Charles Lamb observed, "Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts." And a growling stomach.
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