Asparagus is a popular vegetable that's available in a variety of colors: there's green, white and purple asparagus. It is known as one of the most nutritionally balanced vegetables.
How Does Asparagus Grow?
Asparagus likes a sandy soil to call home and can be grown in a variety of growing zones. Asparagus is grown with much care and preparation, and the plant needs about three years to produce a mature crown. Each spring, this crown produces the stalks. Once the plant reaches maturity, it will produce enough stalks to supply a 12 week harvesting period. These stalks can grow between seven and ten inches in one day in optimal conditions.
The harvest season ends when the stalks become woody and the ferny leaves grow and begin to produce the berry fruit. These leaves should not be cut, as this produces the energy the stalks will need in the following spring to produce another excellent harvest.
Nutritional Differences in Asparagus Types
As mentioned, asparagus comes in several varieties and colors. The most common asparagus color is green and is considered to be the most nutritious. Green asparagus contains potassium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B, folic acid, beta carotene, and contains no fat, cholesterol, and is very low in sodium. The benefits provided by these nutrients include lowering birth defects, adding a diuretic, which lowers swelling and water retention, and it also offers pro-biotic benefits to the intestines.
The only difference in white asparagus is its lack of chlorophyll. This chemical is found in green asparagus, and this is the chemical which makes it green. The white asparagus is covered with soil and is kept from receiving sunlight to produce the green stalks, therefore white asparagus is only slightly less nutritional than green asparagus.
Asparagus is available also in a purple color. Purple asparagus has about a twenty percent higher sugar content in the stalks, which produces a sweeter and nutty flavor when cooked. Phytonutrients called anthocynanins give the asparagus its color and do provide additional health benefits. Purple asparagus stalks tend to be thicker and less stringy, which makes them more tender when they are cooked. They are more often eaten raw over their green counterpart. Other nutritional values remain the same for this variety, making it a nutritious and colorful asparagus choice.
Asparagus, no matter what color or variety, can be cooked in several ways. Asparagus can be boiled, steamed, grilled or blanched. There are several recipes to enjoy this vegetable, and once you taste the tender stalks cooked to your liking, it will be a nutritious addition to any meal.