Asparagus is a common food item on our plates, but is asparagus a vegetable or a fruit? This is the question we will be answering today. As a nutritious food item, many people do not care to find out if it is a fruit or a vegetable. Whereas the body doesn’t mind, we need to set things straight.
What is asparagus?
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Asparagus is a type of vegetable that has been grown for centuries. The word “asparagus” comes from the Greek words “aspa,” which means spear, and “ragoûs,” which means food. It can be found in almost every grocery store in America, and it’s much more popular than the average consumer realizes. There are 5 different types of asparagus, the most prominent ones being green, white, purple. All of these strains come from the same plant family.
a) Green asparagus
This is the most common asparagus variety. It can be found in almost every grocery store in the US. Green asparagus is also available in several types like the Jersey King (most common), Jersey Knight, Jersey Giant, Mary Washington, and PrecoceD’Argenteuil.
b) White asparagus
This is the rarer type of asparagus. There is no pigment in white asparagus. This is why it’s so light-colored and has a milder taste than green or purple varieties. It is made from other types by simply depriving the plant shoot of light which is necessary for chlorophyll formation. White asparagus is mostly consumed around Europe.
c) Purple Asparagus
Widespread in England and Italy, this variety is the sweetest and most tender of the three. The purple color is due to high levels of anthocyanins, also found in red wine and dark chocolate. Purple asparagus is usually cooked or eaten raw, although if you cook the purple spears for very long, the purple color will be lost.
Where did asparagus come from?
Asparagus is believed to have originated around the eastern Mediterranean and later spread to Europe. Today, the plant grows wildly in those areas and in America, where it was first introduced in the 1800s.
Before asparagus found itself in the kitchen, it was used to cure ailments such as heart problems, bee stings, and even chewed to calm toothache.
Greeks are known to have consumed the plant from the wild, while the Romans did domesticate the plant later. They could also dry the spears to use them later for various needs.
What kind of vegetable is asparagus?
Asparagus is a vegetable that is part of the Liliaceae family. This family has long vertical leaves (similar to lilies) and is characterized by its six-petal flowers. Other members of this vegetable family include garlic, onions, chives, and leeks.
The plant is also known for its unique smell, sulfuric in nature (this is why asparagus causes your pee to smell like rotten eggs). The odor comes from the breaking down of asparagusic acid.
Is asparagus a root vegetable?
No, asparagus is actually a stem vegetable. The plant is grown through planting shoots in the ground. These shoots, also known as spears, are harvested for consumption before they produce seeds and flowers. If you see booming tips of purple asparagus, that shoot is probably flowering.
Root vegetables grow below ground and store their nutrients there.
The edible part of asparagus is the young stem, which is why it is considered a vegetable in culinary terms. Salads and dips make use of these raw tender stems due to their crunchy texture. The root end is usually removed as it contains tough fibers, and it’s not tasty at all.
Why is asparagus a vegetable?
Asparagus is classified as a vegetable because of the part that’s eaten, i.e., the young stem of the plant. These young stems are considered vegetables and can be eaten fresh, cooked, or pickled.
As much as we are used to eating asparagus in salads and dips, perhaps it has also stuck more as a vegetable. The stems can also be dried and ground into a fine powder, used to flavor many dishes.
Is asparagus a fruit?
No, asparagus is not a fruit. As explained above, the edible part is only the young stem of this plant growing in shallow soil or sand beds. The whole point is to harvest these stems before they grow roots and become too tough to eat.
Fruits are sweet-tasting parts of plants that contain seeds on them (for example, an apple). On the other hand, we only consume the shoots in asparagus, and thus it’s not a fruit.
Why is asparagus a fruit?
If you let the asparagus shoots flower and pollinate, fruits will eventually form. The resulting red berries appear sweet to the eye, but they are highly poisonous if ingested. This is why asparagus may be considered a fruit, but it is neither a fruit nor a berry in culinary terms.
If you happen to consume several of these berries, say a handful, poisoning will manifest in the form of vomiting and diarrhea. In such a case, you are advised to use some charcoal for relief.
What part of the asparagus plant do we eat?
The part that’s eaten is the young stem or shoot of asparagus. These shoots are harvested before they start to flower, which is why we can eat them without fear of poisonings.
As much as these stems may taste bitter when raw, cooking changes their flavor for the better. Some consider it an acquired taste because of its distinct flavor, which develops after cooking.
Mature stems are tough, and they also lack flavor. They are just not edible and should be removed when preparing those dips and salads.
Where to buy asparagus
Asparagus is widely available in grocery stores. They are usually sold fresh, but you can also find them frozen or canned. Buying online is also an option these days, with Amazon being the most major ecommerce platform and thus the global supplier of asparagus.
Can you eat raw asparagus in a salad?
Yes, asparagus is a stem vegetable and is highly crunchy in nature. The stems can be eaten raw with dips like hummus or tzatziki to add some more flavor. When eaten raw, asparagus needs to be thinly sliced because of the tough texture.
Can you eat white asparagus raw?
Yes, white asparagus is the same plant cultivated differently. The difference is that their shoots are covered with soil while growing underground to prevent exposure to sunlight. This causes the stems to become completely bleached, and they taste different too.
Can you eat the whole asparagus stalk?
The stems are the only edible part of asparagus. You can have the whole spear if you eat them raw, but leave out the tougher and woody part close to the bottom. Leave about 1 ½ “; you certainly don’t want to chew that part!
Should you opt to cook them, cut the stems into small slices and add them to your dish at the very end of cooking. This is because they will become too soft if cooked for a long time. Since the texture is part of why we enjoy asparagus, this is not desirable.
How to eat asparagus correctly
Asparagus is very crunchy and quite firm. When eating asparagus, it is advisable to use a knife and fork, especially if it’s part of the main dish. Using a knife and fork is also part of proper etiquette when dining, so you can mitigate two issues at once with this simple change in technique.
You may bend the asparagus just slightly by hand if absolutely necessary, but try not to do it too often or for all
Serve with dip or sauce that goes well with its distinct flavor. Plain asparagus is not as tasty. This is because all those dips and sauces add a lot of excitement and flavor to the dish.
Serve asparagus with meat, fish, or vegetables for protein intake. As is always the case when eating veggies on their own, you will feel hungry soon after finishing your meal if there is no protein in the food.
As to whether asparagus is a vegetable, you now have the answer. Asparagus is not only a vegetable but also belongs to the stem family. It is highly nutritious and an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E.
You can go ahead and order some from Amazon or online vendors. As mentioned earlier, asparagus is available in all grocery stores, so that’s another option.