Asparagus has been around for more than 2,000 years. It has graced the gold and silver plates of royalty and nourished ordinary folks. It has a colorful past, with folklore even suggesting asparagus as an aphrodisiac!
Washington asparagus is produced on approximately 7,000 acres in the Columbia Basin, the Yakima Valley and the Walla Walla area. About 22 million pounds of asparagus are produced each year, bringing close to 28 million dollars to the state's economy.
The word asparagus originates from the Greek language meaning "sprout" or "shoot". Asparagus is a member of the lily family. Cultivation of asparagus began over 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean Region. Romans and Greeks alike ate asparagus for the rich flavor and medicinal qualities.
The lily vegetable spread to all parts of the Mediterranean; from Egypt to Spain. France and England developed the taste for asparagus as a delicacy traced back to 16th century gastronomic literature.
Asparagus came to America with the early colonists. Cultivation spread west to include Michigan, California and Washington State.
Buy firm, straight, uniformly sized spears with closed, compact tips. The stalks should be crisp, not wilted.
Preparation: Rinse in cool water to clean. Snap-off or trim at least ½ inch from bottom of each spear.
Boiling: Place ½ cup water in a skillet. Cook asparagus in boiling water until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.
Steaming: Place asparagus in steamer with 1 ½ to 2 inches of water. Cover and cook until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.
To Microwave: Place asparagus in baking dish with tips pointed towards center. Add ¼ cup water and cover. Microwave at 100% power for 4 – 7 minutes for spears, 3 – 5 minutes for pieces.
Asparagus is high in Vitamin C, Fiber, Vitimin B6, Rutin, Folic Acid, Gluthathione
In years past, sixty percent of Washington's asparagus crop was processed. Because processing plants vacated Washington, our industry is focusing on fresh asparagus. The Washington fresh market and has a reputation worldwide as a premium product. Washington takes great pride in its high standards for quality asparagus. In fact, the "Washington Extra Fancy" label exceeds the standards set by the government for U.S. Number One asparagus.
With the trend toward healthier diets, asparagus is quickly becoming a premium vegetable that takes a regular place in menu planning rather than being "only for special occasions". Asparagus is the leading natural source for two nutrients that prevent disease and promote a healthy body--folacin and glutathione. Folacin (folic acid) is important for the formation of blood cells and helps prevent birth defects. Asparagus provides 60% of the USDA recommendation of folacin. Glutathione has been shown to be one of the most potent anticarcinogens and antioxidant found within the body. Of all foods tested none was higher in glutathione than asparagus.
There are approximately 100 asparagus growers in the state of Washington and, like everyone involved in the agriculture industry, they face many challenges in the future. But with Washington State producing forty percent of all the asparagus grown in the United States there continues to be a commitment by growers to provide a premium product that is recognized and sought after around the world.
Full, plump Washington asparagus is the result of an ideal growing situation:
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