A distant cousin of the onion, the distinguished asparagus is also a member of the lilaceae family. Its history goes back as far as that of the leek and has been consumed for over 2000 years. This garden plant originated in the eastern Mediterranean countries and traces of wild varieties have been discovered in Africa. Archaeologists believe that it was also cultivated in Egypt.
In ancient Greece, asparagus was considered to be a plant with sacred and aphrodisiac virtues and the Greeks were interested in its biological and pharmaceutical qualities.
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek doctor, used asparagus to treat diarrhoea and pains of the urethra. This plant, in fact, contains asparagines which is known for it diuretic properties. The Romans, for their part, appreciated the plants gastronomic qualities. They ate it as an entrée or as a vegetable accompanying fish. Asparagus was largely forgotten during the Middle Ages but continued to be cultivated by the Arabs. Caesar’s legions returning from the Orient brought the asparagus back to Europe.
Starting in the 16th century, asparagus was served in the royal courts of Europe and in the 17th century it was cultivated in France for Louis XIV who was, apparently, very fond of it. At that time, according to the records, it was the size of a swan’s feather and was grown solely for the requirements of the nobility. Only in the 18th century did the asparagus make its appearance on the local marketplace and in numerous culinary works.
Today, green asparagus is found in America and China. The white variety is cultivated mainly in Europe