Royalty is about having high tastes, but sometimes the blue-blooded also enjoy things popular with common people. One thing they share with the masses is often not known: Asparagus. Throughout the Mediterranean basin, from Spain to Italy and further to Turkey, farmers sweat a lot to collect the tasty green vegetables. This spring delicacy is equally enjoyed by all, but with a class difference. The better off enjoy the luxurious cultivated vegetable while the less privileged settle for the wild shoots, but in general perception the sprout remains a bourgeoning taste of the bourgeois.

After the 1990s, Albanians exposure to other Mediterranean countries enabled the introduction at somewhat a bigger scale of the asparagus in the country. In Kosova, it is a very much more well-established cultivation, while Albanian farmers do not have an easy relationship with this crop. Recently, more and more farmers are starting to cultivate asparagus to meet the growing demand of the local market.

History records that sovereignty and asparagus go hand in hand. King Louis XIV had special green houses built for growing it in the gardens of Versailles; it was a favorite of French haute cuisine, often regarded as the “King of Vegetables,” or even more appropriately, the “Vegetable of Kings.” Long before the French, it was appreciated in both the ancient Egypt and Roman dynasties. Emperor Augustus had an “Asparagus Fleet” for reaping the young shoots. It is not hard to imagine that Caesar and Cleopatra might have had a feast on asparagus, especially given the fact that aphrodisiac qualities are often attributed to the sprout. Caesar is said to have had a fondness for it, with an added touch of a few drops of rose oil.

Health benefits of Asparagus

- Asparagus is a very low calorie vegetable and full of fibers. 100 g fresh spears carries just 20 calories.
- Fresh asparagus spears are a good source of anti-oxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin, carotenes, and crypto-xanthins. Together, these flavonoid compounds help remove harmful oxidant free radicals from the body.
- Fresh asparagus are rich sources of folates. 100 g of spears provide about 54 µg or 14% of RDA of folic acid. Folates are one of the important co-factors for DNA synthesis inside the cell. Scientific studies have shown that adequate consumption of folates in the diet during pre-conception period and during early pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects in the newborn baby.
- Its shoots are also rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid. These group of vitamins are essential for optimum cellular enzymatic and metabolic functions.
- Fresh asparagus also contains fair amounts of anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C, vitamin-A, and vitamin-E. Regular consumption of foods rich in these vitamins helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
- Its shoots are also good source of vitamin K. 100 grams of shoots carry about 35% of DRI. Vitamin K has potential role bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Recipe of the Week: The love affair of asparagus with eggs and butter is best demonstrated with a good Hollandaise sauce, which is practically mayonnaise with butter. Hollandaise is the nightmare of even acclaimed chefs, let alone humble home-cooks. A well-executed one is hard to achieve, as one can easily end up with greasy scrambled eggs instead of a velvety sauce, plus perfecting the balance of buttery richness and sharp acidity is crucial, but often missed. Still, one has to give it a try at least once a year, ideally for a bunch of steamed asparagus. Here is a rather simple one: In a little saucepan put 2 tablespoons each of water and vinegar with a few crushed peppercorns, one small bay leaf and a slice of onion. Let boil until reduced to a spoonful or a little more. Strain and keep warm in the saucepan, plus add two tablespoons of lemon juice. Melt 125 g butter till frothy and skim the frothy part. Take three eggs in room temperature, separate the yolks, save egg whites for a meringue or whatever. Put egg yolks in a blender with 1 teaspoon salt, start to whizz, add the warm vinegar-lemon juice mix, and gradually add the melted warm butter, taking care not to curdle the yolks. Transfer into a warmed saucer and serve immediately to pour over steamed or boiled asparagus. You may perk it with a little freshly milled black pepper or grated lemon peel./AgroWeb.org/