Shoots of nutrition

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High in nutrition and low in calories, this vegetable has tempted many a taste bud with its delicate flavour

Asparagus is a vegetable obtained from one species within the genus Asparagus, specifically the young shoots of Asparagus officinalis. It has been used from very early times as a culinary vegetable, because of its delicate flavour and diuretic properties.The English word "asparagus" derives from classical Latin, but the plant was once known in English as sperage, from the Medieval Latin sparagus. This term itself derives from the Greek aspharagos or asparagos, and the Greek term originates from the Persian asparag, meaning "sprout" or "shoot."Asparagus is a hardy perennial. It is the only common vegetable that grows wild along roadsides and railroad tracks, over a large part of the country.Asparagus is one of the first vegetables ready for harvest in the spring. Asparagus, native to the Mediterranean, was eaten by the ancient Greeks.Asparagus is widely used in the US. Peru is the world's leading asparagus exporter, followed by China and then Mexico.US imports green, fresh asparagus and white, fresh asparagus from Peru. While both green and white fresh asparagus from Peru are marketed in the United States, the colour requirements of the current US Standards for Grades of Fresh Asparagus only provide for the grading of green asparagus.

Culinary uses

In their simplest form, the shoots are boiled or steamed until tender and served with a light sauce like hollandaise or melted butter or a drizzle of olive oil with a dusting of Parmesan cheese. A refinement is to tie the shoots into sheaves and stand them so that the lower ends of the stalks are boiled, while the more tender heads are steamed.There is a process followed while handling asparagus.Chefs, before cooking, scrape asparagus stalks with a vegetable peeler, stroking away from the head, and refresh them in ice-cold water before steaming them. The peel is often added back to the cooking water and removed only after the asparagus is done; this is supposed to prevent diluting the flavour. Small or full-sized stalks can be used in asparagus soup.

Medicinal uses

Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables. It is the best, vegetable source for folic acid. Folic acid is necessary for blood-cell formation and growth, as well as to prevent liver ailments. Folic acid is also important for pregnant women as it aids in the prevention of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the foetus. Asparagus is low in calories; each stalk contains fewer than 4. It contains no fat or cholesterol, and is low in sodium. Asparagus is a great source of potassium, fibre, vitamins B6, A and C and thiamine. Now for a delightful recipe.Cream of AsparagusIngredients
Fresh asparagus spears, chopped: 2 cups
Onion: 1, minced.
Water: 2-and-a-half cups
Butter: quarter
Evaporated milk: 1 cup.
Chicken bouillon: half a cube.
Salt: 1 teaspoon.
Cornstarch: 4 tablespoons, dissolved thick
Cheese, grated: half a cup.MethodIn a saucepan, boil the asparagus spears and onion in water until tender. Mash the softened vegetables and pass through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Put back the strained vegetable puree into the stock. Add butter, milk, cube, salt and cornstarch. Cook on moderate flame until smooth and thick, stirring continuously with a wire whisk. Add grated cheese and simmer for a few minutes. Serve hot.S. GOPI




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