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Aubergine/Eggplant »« Asian Greens: Pak choi, Chinese cabbage


Asparagus officinalis

Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand


Few vegetables evoke spring as much as asparagus. The small shoots that poke their way up through the ground symbolise the start of the warmer weather, heralding an end to winter. Its season is short, so it’s best to make the most of asparagus while it’s at its fresh and crisp best.

Asparagus is a member of the lily family. Left alone, the plant itself grows foliage that looks like a large fern, but it’s the young shoots or spears growing from an underground crown that we eat. If you plant asparagus at home, be prepared to wait three years to get a crop while the root system establishes.

When buying asparagus, look for spears that are firm and smooth, with tightly closed buds at the tip.

Asparagus is high in folate and potassium and low in sodium.



Asparagus has been grown for more than 2,000 years, originating in Greece, where it was believed to have medicinal properties. It was highly popular with the Romans, who grew it in high-walled courtyards. As their empire grew, they took asparagus along for the ride and introduced it to the Gauls, Germans, and Britons.


Like many delicacies, many lovers of asparagus feel that it’s best cooked as plainly as possible. Snap the woody, fibrous ends off the spears and steam them just for a few minutes, until they’ve turned bright green but not gone limp. This fast cooking method wasn’t lost on the Roman emperor Augustus, who when he wanted something done quickly, demanded it be done “faster than you can cook asparagus”.

Hollandaise is a popular accompaniment for asparagus, but for even greater simplicity eat it plain, or with a drizzle of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.

Don’t waste the ends that you’ve snapped off – these can be added to vegetable stock, or turned into asparagus soup.


Though practically unheard of in New Zealand, white asparagus is popular in Europe. White asparagus is identical to its green counterpart, except that the growing spears are kept covered with earth to keep the sun out, preventing chlorophyll production turning the shoot green. The taste is often described as being milder and more subtle than green asparagus.

Asparagus contains a carbohydrate called inulin that promotes beneficial gut bacteria, making it harder for harmful bacteria to set up camp.

Aubergine/Eggplant »« Asian Greens: Pak choi, Chinese cabbage


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