Asparagus is in season right now – but how much do you know about this pointy vegetable? Here are seven fabulous facts to get you started.

1. Asparagus is a shoot with ancient history

Asparagus has been grown for thousands of years, and was even depicted on Egyptian tombs dating from 400 BC.

The name comes from “the Greek asparagos (and originally the Persian asparag) meaning sprout or shoot”, according to Plants of the World Online.

The epithet officinalis means ‘of the dispensary’ in Latin, alluding to the medicinal properties of the plant.

2. Picking asparagus can be a social faux-pas

According to the writer and actor Stephen Fry in his autobiography Moab is my Washpot, you should never pick asparagus after Royal Ascot (which takes place in the third week of June).

It isn’t proper social etiquette; the plant needs to die down in order to build up its energy stores for the following year’s crop.

3. Asparagus is remarkable to grow

The British asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) season usually begins from April.

Called the Usain Bolt of the veggie world — at least by the Asparagus Growers’ Association — the spears can grow a speedy 10cm in one day.

The season is short (about eight weeks) and each spear needs to be hand-picked, which may explain why British asparagus isn’t as cheap as some other seasonal vegetables.

4. Asparagus is healthy (but not a miracle cure)

Asparagus is a good source of vitamin K and C.

It’s also a prebiotic, meaning that as a source of soluble fibre called fructooligosaccharides (FOS), it helps feed our gut bacteria to keep our microbiome healthy.

But health benefits have also been overstated. One claim that spread on the internet stated that pureed asparagus can cure cancer.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support this, although vitamin K, one of its nutrients, has been associated with cancer-fighting properties.

5. Some asparagus is white

Compared with its green cousin, white asparagus has a milder taste, but the main difference between the two is simple: sunlight.

White asparagus is grown using a process known as etiolation, so it is deprived of light, usually being covered with earth or a covering until it is ready to pick.

This prevents production of chlorophyll, the chemical which makes plants green. If you want to try the white variety, look for it in jars.

6. There are plenty of ways to enjoy asparagus

From being dunked into boiled eggs to being grilled on the barbeque, asparagus is versatile, ready in a couple of minutes, and has a distinct flavour that needs just a little salt and pepper to bring to its best.

Buy it fresh, frozen or canned, but if you like a bit of snap to your meal, stick with the fresh variety. Frozen asparagus tends to be softer, so is better in soups.

7. You can even eat the stem

To prepare fresh asparagus, bend the stalk until it snaps. The upper portion from the break will be the tender stem, whereas the lower part will be tougher.

To save on waste, peel or trim the outside of the woody stems, and use the tender middle however you choose.

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