Asparagus – the anti-ageing superfood is almost in season

It’s only a matter of days before the asapargus season starts in the northern hemisphere. Bunches of this delicious vegetable in green, white and purple will be fresh and abundant – so in this timely feature we reveal why you should tuck in for your health and enjoy this delicious superfood.

Green Asparagus

Green Asparagus

Asparagus has been used as a food and a medicine, because of its diuretic properties and mild flavour since ancient times.

It is shown as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC. It was also known in Syria and in Spain. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter. The Romans would even freeze it high in the Alps, for the Feast of Epicurus. In Indian literature it was credited with aphrodisiacal powers. And in the 15th century is was cultivated in French monastries.

In France, the delicate and sweet tips became known as ‘points d’amour’ and were served as a delicacy to Madame de Pompadour, official chief mistress of Louis XV, the King of France.

Asparagus Cannes Market

Cannes Market in the South of France

Flash forward hundreds of years and we discover that not only is it low in calories but its packed with nutrients that are good for us. The most abundant variety is the green asparagus, but there are also white and purple varieties.

And the strange smell that some people experience in their urine after eating it is apparently harmless.

If that wasn’t enough, eaten regularly, asparagus packs an almighty punch to diseases such as cancer and heart disease as well as boosting your immune system.

It’s estimated that 4 out of 10 of us (Cancer Research Campaign) will get cancer at some point in our lives and that about 30 per cent of all cancers may be the result of our diet. Asparagus contains high levels of vitamin A, folic acid and dietary fibre all believed to play an important role in the fight against cancer. Vitamin A (an antioxidant vitamin) may help prevent cancer by protecting body cells from damage caused by free radicals. Folic acid is thought to have a role in preventing certain types of cancer and dietary fibre keeps the bowel working normally and helps protect bowel cells from cancer-causing damage. Recent research has shown that a diet high in fibre is linked with a lower incidence of bowel cancer.

Heart Disease
Asparagus is rich in soluble fibre, known to have a protective effect against degenerative heart diseases. Asparagus also contains high levels of potassium, which may help to control blood pressure and the high folic acid content helps to reduce blood homocysteine levels, thought to reduce the risk of heart disease. Asparagus is also low in fat and sodium, making it the perfect choice for those concerned about a healthy heart.

Immune System
Asparagus is one of the richest sources of rutin (a natural substance found in plants) which together with vitamin C, can help to energise and protect the body from infections. Asparagus is also a source of iron, which boosts the immune system and prevents anaemia.

Additionally, asparagus can make you feel good by boosting your sex drive, assisting in weight loss and detox, and is also great for nails, skin and hair.

Lovely Libido!
Claimed to ‘stir up lust in man and woman’ by herbalist, Nicholas Culpepper, in the 1600s the debate has raged ever since over whether any foods actually contain aphrodisiac qualities or not. Histamine production appears to be triggered by folic acid and lack of histamines has been linked to an inability to reach orgasm in both men and women. Asparagus is high in folates so may boost abilities in this department. Traditionally eaten with the fingers, it is also a seductive eating experience!

Low in Calories
Asparagus is low in calories with less than four kcal per average spear, which as part of a balanced diet can help weight loss. Asparagus is also very low in cholesterol, has no fat and very little sodium so can help to maintain heart function and blood pressure levels.

Asparagus is a mild diuretic and is believed to help detoxify the body, helping it to get rid of excess water and combat cystitis. Asparagus contains prebiotics, which selectively stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut, soothing the stomach and aiding digestion.

Natural Beauty
Women might also be keen to learn that the levels of vitamin C and E present in this miracle vegetable make it great for skin, nails and hair!

Roasted British Asparagus with Chilli and Lime Butter

Cooking time: 8 minutes
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

Pam Lloyd PR Asparagus Recipes (23rd & 25th November 2011)

Asparagus with Chilli & Lime Butter

You’ll need: 100g butter 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced 2 tbs fresh coriander, finely chopped ½ tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground juice ½ lime 2 bundles British asparagus Salt and pepper for seasoning 1 lime for garnish What to do: Bring the butter to room temperature then mix in the chilli, coriander, ground cumin and lime juice, add a good twist of black pepper then place onto a sheet of clingfilm. Roll into a sausage shape then chill in the fridge. Trim the ends of the asparagus and place on a roasting tray, drizzle with some oil, season and roast in an oven set at 200°c / 180°c fan for 6-8 minutes. Place the asparagus spears onto serving plates and top with a slice of the butter, serve with a wedge of lime.

Asparagus, Smoked Salmon with Ginger and Soy Dressing

Cooking time: 8 minutes
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Asparagus and smoked salmon with ginger soy dressing

Asparagus and smoked salmon with ginger soy dressing

You’ll need: 1 tbsp fresh ginger grated 2 cloves garlic crushed Oil for frying 50ml dry sherry 2 tbsp soy sauce 2 bundles British asparagus 200g smoked salmon slices Fresh coriander to serve 1 red chilli sliced 1 lime cut into wedges What to do: Fry the ginger and garlic in a little oil for 2-3 minutes then add the sherry and soy. Once the mixture has reduced slightly leave to cool for a few minutes. Trim the ends of the asparagus and coat with a little oil, cook on a pre-heated griddle pan for 4-5 minutes turning until cooked through but still retaining some bite. Cut the smoked salmon into 2 cm thick strips and wrap around the asparagus spears, drizzle over the soy dressing and garnish with some chilli and coriander leaves. Serve with a wedge of lime.

You can find more gorgeous recipes at

Some useful presents for asparagus lovers

An asparagus cutter

The Asparagus Festival Cookbook