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Spearheading Health

Spearheading Health

Widely cultivated for its tender, succulent, edible shoots, asparagus cultivation began more than 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region. With its designer looks, air of sophistication and unique herbaceous flavour, it is no wonder that the popularity of fresh asparagus has stood the test of time. Asparagus is a member of the Lily family. Its spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils. Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10" in a 24 hour period.

The growing, harvesting and packing of asparagus are extremely labour intensive processes and once harvested, asparagus is a highly perishable product. So hats off to the hard working growers who provide this delectable product for our enjoyment and health! It is one of the most nutritionally well balanced vegetables in existence. It leads nearly all produce items in the wide array of nutrients it supplies in significant amounts for a healthy diet.

Asparagus is one of nature's most perfect foods. It is:

  • Very low in sodium
  • A good source of potassium
  • A source of fiber
  • Contains no fat or cholesterol
  • An excellent source of folacin
  • A significant source of thiamin
  • A significant source of vitamin B6
  • One of the richest sources of rutin, an antioxidant which strengthens capillary walls
  • Contains glutathione, one of the most potent anti carcinogens and antioxidants found within the body

There are two main types of asparagus, Green and White:

Green Asparagus
Green asparagus derives its colour from the process of photosynthesis as the spear emerges from the soil into direct sunlight. A common misconception is that thin spears are young shoots and therefore more tender. In fact, long, thick dark green glossy spears with tightly closed heads are the best quality. Correct cooking results in vibrant green spears with a delightful tender crisp texture.

White Asparagus
White asparagus has long been considered a delicacy, particularly by Europeans, and commands about double the price of green asparagus. White asparagus is exactly the same variety as green asparagus grown in Australia. The difference is that white asparagus is grown in the dark. When asparagus spears are exposed to sunlight, they first turn pink and later, the familiar green colour. The main reason that white asparagus is more expensive is that there is a limited supply, and the production costs are high. Traditionally white asparagus was produced in the field by hilling up extra soil above the crown so that the spear could develop to a harvestable length without being exposed to sunlight. As soon as the spear emerged from the mound, specialist and skilled workers would cut deep into the mound with their purpose built long handled asparagus to harvest it. This method was not without its problems, as "blind harvesting" increased the risk of injuring the developing spears, and few specialist cutters were available to harvest the crop. The increasing demand for new types of asparagus has led to developments in the way that white asparagus is produced. Some growers now use black "polyhouses" or "igloos" constructed over the crop between June and July in preparation for the emerging crop. The black plastic ensures that the spears are not exposed to sunlight. It also solves the problem of the traditional harvesting methods as asparagus grown in "polyhouses" can be harvested above the ground cleanly and efficiently without damaging the developing spears.

Asparagus should be eaten fresh as it will lose flavour. Store in plastic bags in the crisper section of your refrigerator.

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