What are they?, history, cultivation, nutritional value, uses, recipes, and more...

Asparagus is the shoot of the asparagus plant, an herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the Lily family that reaches up to a meter and a half in height. Asparagus is used in various culinary preparations and has important nutritional properties.

What are Asparagus?

Asparagus is the shoot of the asparagus plant, a perennial herbaceous plant with highly branched foliage and a feathery appearance. This plant consists of branched aerial stems and an underground part composed of roots and buds, commonly referred to as “crowns.” The young shoots are harvested to obtain the vegetables known as asparagus. At this stage, the leaves are only scales with green filiform branching at their base, reaching a length of up to 25 mm. The flowers are small, bell-shaped, pedunculated, and are distributed in pairs or solitary.

Asparagus is a dioecious plant, meaning there are plants with only male flowers and others with female flowers. The fruits of the asparagus plant are 6mm diameter berries with an intense red color.

While the productive life of this species is 7 or 8 years, wild asparagus plants can live up to 30 years.

In irrigated plantations, asparagus can reach a height of 1.5m, while in dryland plantations, it can reach one meter. At the end of its season, the above-ground part dries up and dies. During the following spring, new buds will sprout, giving rise to more shoots.

History of Asparagus

Asparagus is believed to have originated in the Tigris and Euphrates basins. Initially, it was a plant that grew spontaneously in sandy soils in the Eurasian continent. It is known to have been cultivated by the Egyptians around 6000 BC, and from there, it spread to Greece and Italy. Later, the plant was introduced to Spain by the Romans.

In the Middle Ages, asparagus regained its status as a medicinal plant, and by the late 15th century, its properties were included in books on healing herbs. Over time, asparagus became known as a vegetable and became a luxury product used by the emerging bourgeoisie to demonstrate their social status.

Until the late 19th century, green asparagus was the most cultivated type, but from that time onwards, the cultivation of white asparagus began to spread.

During this time, canned asparagus also appeared. As it became industrialized and accessible to the masses, asparagus lost its value as a luxury food.

Currently, China is the world’s leading producer of asparagus, followed by Peru, the United States, and Japan.

Its cultivation in Peru began in the early 1950s in the department of La Libertad with the variety Mary, which has now been mainly replaced by the UC157 F1 variety.

esparragos origen foods superalimentos peruanos

Asparagus officinalis

Reino Plantae
División Magnoliophyta
Clase Liliopsida
Orden Asparagales
Familia Asparagaceae
Subfamilia Asparagoideae
Género Asparagus
Especie Asparagus officinalis L.
  • Asparagus polyphyllus Steven

The word “asparagus” comes from the Latin “sparagus,” which is derived from the Greek “aspharagos” or “asparagos,” and the Greek term originated from the Persian “asparag,” which means “shoot.”

“Officinalis,” on the other hand, is a Latin epithet that means “sold in herbal shops, medicinal.”

Habitat of Asparagus

Habitat of Asparagus

Asparagus is best cultivated in temperate, warm, and subtropical climates. The most suitable temperatures for its development range from 18°C to 25°C, and it prefers deep, well-drained, and cool soils. While it can tolerate various salinities, the optimal pH ranges from 6.5 to 7.8.

This plant has a lifespan of 10 years if the soil is properly prepared with deep tillage. Regular irrigation is necessary, especially after planting and during vegetative growth. It is worth noting that stalks suitable for consumption can be obtained starting from the fourth year of the plant's life.

Asparagus can be cultivated from seeds, seedlings, or crowns. The recommended method is to germinate the seeds in a nursery until the rhizome or crown has formed, and then transfer the young plant to its final location.

Esta planta tiene una vida útil de 10 años si se prepara  el terreno correctamente con una labranza profunda. Su riego debe ser regular, especialmente después de ser plantadas y durante el crecimiento vegetativo. Un dato a considerar es que los tallos aptos para su consumo comienzan a obtenerse al cuarto año de vida de la planta.

El espárrago se puede cultivar por semillas, plántulas o garras.  Se dice que la mejor forma de hacerlo es haciendo germinar las semillas en un semillero, hasta que el rizoma o garra se haya formado y en ese momento se traslada de la pequeña planta a su lugar definitivo.

Geographical Distribution of Asparagus


Ica, Lima, Ancash, La Libertad, Lambayeque

Seasonal Availability of Asparagus

Varieties of Asparagus

Asparagus varieties are primarily classified based on their color.

  • Light green or white varieties:

    Connovers Colossal
    Mammmouth White
    These are mainly marketed in processed form and are mostly cultivated in La Libertad.

  • Dark green varieties:

    Martha and Mary Washington
    UC 157
    UC 72

Nutritional Value of Asparagus

Asparagus is low in calories and is a good source of vitamin C and folate. It also contains a moderate amount of carotenoids (provitamin A), vitamin E, and B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin). A 100-gram portion of asparagus provides approximately 10% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 10% of potassium, and 15% of vitamin C. Additionally, its high water content and low mineral content contribute to its diuretic properties.

Asparagus also provides small amounts of fluoride, copper, zinc, manganese, and iodine.

Recently, asparagus has been described as one of the most suitable foods for preventing colon cancer, and it is believed to have inhibitory effects on the growth of human leukemia cells.

Furthermore, it is the product with the highest glutathione content, one of the most important enzymes for combating cancer (according to the National Cancer Institute – USA).

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Asparagus is rich in folic acid (vitamin B9) and vitamin K, and it has a high fiber and water content.

Contraindications or Side Effects

Asparagus is a food that does not have many contraindications. Among the few that can be found are:

  • Possible allergic reactions.
  • Increased gas production
  • May be counterproductive for individuals with complications such as kidney stones.

Tabla Nutricional

10 Porciones por Kilogramo
Tamaño de porción 100g
Cantidad por porción

Cantidad por 100g
Energía62 kJ
Grasa Total0.3 g
Carbohidratos totales3.8 g
    Carbohidratos disponibles2.1 g
    Fibra Dietaria1.7 g
Proteínas2.2 g
Calcio35 mg
Fósforo35 mg
Zinc0.54 mg
Hierro1.33 mg
Agua93.0 g
Cenizas0.8 g
Vitamina A38 μg
Tiamina (B1)0.09 mg
Riboflavina (B2)0.05 mg
Niacina (B3)0.82 mg
Vitamina C2.32 mg
Acido Fólico (B9)
β-Caroteno230 μg
Fuente: Tablas peruanas de composición de alimentos – Centro Nacional de Alimentación y Nutrición – Ministerio de Salud – Perú

Derived Products and Ways to Consume Asparagus

Side dish

Uses of Asparagus

The main use of asparagus is as a food ingredient in countless dishes worldwide. It is also recognized and used for its nutritional properties that benefit one’s health.

Culinary Use of Asparagus

Asparagus can be eaten in various ways: raw, boiled, steamed, fried, grilled, grated, in juices, etc. It is used in cooking soups, creams, omelets, mousses, among a wide variety of dishes, and it serves as a good accompaniment to meat or fish.

Unlike other vegetables, thicker stems indicate a larger tender and edible portion in proportion to their skin. Small asparagus or the tips of larger ones are used for cooking asparagus soup and are one of the few foods that are considered acceptable to eat with your hands in a formal setting in Europe.

To choose good asparagus, it is preferable that they are all of the same thickness so that they will cook at the same time. They should have a smooth texture when touched and appear juicy inside. If the stems appear yellowish, it means they are old and tough. If they are too long, they become inconvenient to boil.

One way to keep them fresh for a longer time is by cutting a couple of centimeters off the base and placing them in water, like flowers, inside the refrigerator.

Medicinal Use of Asparagus

Among its main medicinal uses are:

It has a sedative effect, making it recommended for palpitations. It is indicated in cases of fluid retention, edema, dropsy, kidney pain, physical and intellectual asthenia, anemia, arthritis, and diabetes. It has a satiating effect, regulates intestinal transit, prevents constipation, and reduces cholesterol and blood sugar levels due to its high fiber content. It contains many antioxidants that have the ability to neutralize the effect of free radicals. It has a diuretic effect as it is mostly composed of water and has a high potassium content. It also contains asparagin, which induces urine production. Due to its high folate content, it is highly recommended for pregnant women and to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. It also aids in sleep and has a mild effect in preventing insomnia and depression. It prevents osteoporosis as it helps in the development and maintenance of bones. It supports the immune system. It has numerous biological activities such as antioxidants, immunomodulators, anti-inflammatory, anti-bronchitis, anti-dyspepsia, and antibiotic properties.

Industrial Use of Asparagus

Asparagus adapts well to industrial processing and is commercially sold in cans or jars.

Peru is the world's second-largest producer of asparagus. During the first two months of 2021, the gross volume of Peruvian asparagus exports reached 22,000 tons, showing a 43% increase compared to the same period in 2020. The main destination markets for this product were the United States, Spain, and the Netherlands.


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