1/26/2013

Where does asparagus come from?

Asparagus is a flowering perennial plant that is considered to be a spring vegetable.     It generally flourishes in moist and high-saline soils.    Asparagus spears grown from a crown that is typically planted about twelve inches deep; each crown typically sends up spears for a period of 6-to-8 weeks in the spring and early summer.   Asparagus plantings are not harvested for the first three years after planting to allow the crown to fully develop its root system – though once established crowns can produce for 10-to-15 years. 

Green asparagus is the most common and well-known variety in the United States, while white asparagus is more common in Europe.  Asparagus also comes in violet (or purple) and wile varieties.   Asparagus is nutrient dense and considered to contain high levels of vitamin B6 along with calcium, magnesium and zinc.  In addition, it is rich in the amino acid asparagine which gets its name from asparagus.  

China is overwhelming the world’s largest producer of asparagus followed by Peru, the United States and Mexico.   Germany, Greece and Japan are also large global producers of commercial asparagus.   Mexico and Peru are the world’s largest exporters.  The United States is the world’s largest importer of asparagus.   The majority of commercial asparagus production in the U.S. occurs in Michigan, California and Washington.   The U.S. commercially harvests between 25-and-30-thousand acres of asparagus producing approximately 800 million lb annually.  

Approximately three-fourths of all asparagus is sent to food retailers directly to be sold as fresh produce.   The remainder is typically sold to processors, and ultimately sold as either frozen or canned cuts and tips.

Did you know?  
The most common question among consumers often concerns eating asparagus and subsequent smell in their urine.   Well, it doesn’t happen to everyone – or so it seems.  Nonetheless, the conventional wisdom is that the smell is derived from the presence of methyl mercaptan, a sulfur-containing compound, that’s found in asparagus.   Some also believe that asparagine, may also play a part in all of this.   

So now you know.

**Source: Nevil Speer