Essential Asparagus Questions
1) Why does eating asparagus make my pee smell funny?
The stinky reputation that asparagus has for making your urine smell has been noted throughout history from Ben Franklin to Marcel Proust. Franklin appealed to science to create a remedy for the “disagreeable odour” while Proust noted that the green vegetable “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume”. The culprit behind the smell is asparagusic acid, a compound only found in asparagus. As a volatile compound, it can vaporize at room temperature, releasing a foul, sulphur-smelling aroma. Raw asparagus is too cold to release this compound. This explains why you only get that smell after your warm body digests asparagus. Researchers have further found that, while we all produce this smell, only some of us perceive the stench. Others of us, aka “non-smellers” don’t detect any difference. Lucky Asparagus Lovers.
2) How does Asparagus Grow?
It takes 2-3 years to harvest your first batch of asparagus from planting the seeds. Asparagus grows in rows of single stalks, which can produce edible food for 8 to 12 years. Wild asparagus is wild looking, with a bushy top that looks similar to dill. You’ve probably passed by wild asparagus in country fields and didn’t even recognize the edible stalks below the grassy tops. In commercial production, asparagus is sorted and bundled according to thickness. Then, it is packed up and shipped off to various parts of the world. To see what asparagus looks like when it grows, check out this 4 minute video:
3) What’s the deal with white asparagus? Why is it so expensive?
White asparagus gets its lack of green color from the labor-intensive growing process that involves mounding dirt over the spears as they grow, blocking out any sunlight. This prevents the production of green chlorophyll and also gives white asparagus the label “vampire” asparagus.
An annual festival in Southern Germany celebrates the many flavors of white asparagus, from traditional asparagus with mayonnaise to modern candied white asparagus. The growing process is still hands-on, involving delicate work mounding dirt over the spears and carefully picking ready stalks at just the right time. This explains the high price tag for the ghostly vegetable, sometimes up to $9 or $10 a pound.
4) What about purple asparagus? Does it taste like blueberries?
You may have noticed purple asparagus popping up at your local farmer’s markets and groceries, especially in the Spring when it’s in season. While it does not taste like blueberries, the vegetable gets its purple hue from the same antioxidant that is in superfoods like blueberries, blackberries, and eggplant: anthocyanin. Sadly, the purple color fades when the spears are cooked. However, the mild flavor and less-fibrous texture of the purple variety make these spears ideal for enjoying raw in a simple crisp, salad. Cut into inch-long pieces, toss with thinly sliced cucumber, and dress with a splash of good balsamic vinegar for a simple healthy side.
5) Is Asparagus a “SuperFood”?
Asparagus is rich in fiber, antioxidants, and Folate, a type of B vitamin, giving it credit to be on any “superfood” list. However, pretty much all vegetables are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and folate (plus other key vitamins and minerals) so it depends on how long your list of “superfoods” will run…
6) What’s the best way to cook asparagus?
Asparagus unique shape and delicious flavors make it ideal for a variety of cooking methods. Choose how to cook asparagus based on your own preferences:
- Grill or Roast (at 425 or higher): Bring out the nutty flavor
- Thinly shave for salad (just use a vegetable peeler or mandolin to shave into “ribbons”): Crisp, slight sweetness
- Quickly Steam (3-4 minutes): For verdant, spring flavor
- Simmer and puree into soup (with peas and potato): For creamy richness
7) What can I do with asparagus ends?
When you trim asparagus, save the woody ends that you’re not using and freeze in a resealable plastic bag. When you have about 1 pound of trimmings, you’re ready to make stock. A quick Asparagus Stock Recipe:
· 1 pound asparagus ends
· 6 cups water
· + any flavorings (bay leaf, garlic, black peppercorns, fresh thyme, parsley sprigs, tarragon)
· Simmer 15 minutes. Strain and use or freeze.
Delicious Asparagus Recipes from Plants-Rule
Oil-Free, Plant-Based Vegetarian
Further Asparagus Reading:
SmithsonianMag.Com: Why Asparagus Makes Your Urine Smell, Joseph Stromberg. MAY 3, 2013: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-asparagus-makes-your-urine-smell-49961252/#IvpTAUxIEJpEtiRJ.99
Saveur Magazine Online: WHITE ASPARAGUS Enjoying these ivory-hued spears—prized for their subtle, earthy flavor—is a rite of spring in the valleys of southern Germany, LORI ZIMRING DE MORI POSTED JANUARY 21, 2001: http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/White-Asparagus-15979?vfVRA7p78ivHpZb0.03
WHFoods.Org: The Color of Asparagus Makes a Difference: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodtip&dbid=14
10 Superfoods for Spring, on Health.com: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20667261_3,00.html
Asparagus Stock Recipe, from MarthaStewart.com: http://www.marthastewart.com/273468/asparagus-stock
About the Author:
Chef Katie Simmons
Katie is a Personal Chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. Outside of the kitchen, she is a Fitness Instructor for Equinox, with over 13 years experience in the fitness industry, and a blogger for Kuli Kuli Foods. For fun, she loves to travel, with her most recent travel involving 10 days of hiking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile.