Growing wild throughout the Mediterranean, asparagus is thought to be
of Mesopotamian origin. Romans are believed to have been the first to
domesticate asparagus and paid it a lot of attention. After the fall of
the Roman Empire, asparagus was cultivated in their monastery gardens,
along with medicinal herbs. Cultivated for more the 2000 years, asparagus
will grow wherever it can find a good footing. Asparagus especially loves
ancient hedges and undisturbed country roads.
Asparagus was believed to possess medicinal properties and could cure everything from rheumatism to toothaches. Historically, asparagus was used in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis, and used as diuretic. However, none of these healing qualities has been proven to be true. Today, this succulent vegetable is appreciated by the Europeans, and the Italians and French are famous for white asparagus. Italians customarily cook asparagus in an "asparagus cooker" or in the same large pot in which pasta has been cooked.
Asparagus provides a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C. This nutritious vegetable is a useful source of vegetable protein, and the stalks are high in fiber. Delicious simply steamed, drizzle it with a balsamic vinegrette and grated Parmesan cheese. Asparagus finds extensive use in Italian cooking, such as in risotto, pasta sauces, stuffed pastas and soups.
To store: peel asparagus and wrap stems in a damp paper towel; place in a plastic bag and refrigerate. However, storage does decrease flavor.