Perhaps one of the most delightful vegetable in early summer is asparagus. Have you already tried it? Not to mention the amazing unique taste, both raw and cooked asparagus may have beneficial health properties. There is always a chance to make meal preparation simple and easy just by introducing some recipes with fresh vegetables in season!
Earlier this year we have written the articles about raw vegetables: How and why to eat raw broccoli? and Dealing with raw beetroots. You can also find a raw vegan recipe with root vegetables How to make root vegetables to be delicate edibles and a vegetarian recipe with raw broccoli and Feta cheese Broccoli meets red bell pepper. Both are waiting to be tired in your kitchen!
Here are 5 incredible facts about eating asparagus raw!
- Raw asparagus is safe to eat
- Raw asparagus is a rich source of proteins and amino acids
- Raw asparagus supports fertility as it contains vitamin C and folic acid; asparagus species are known as aphrodisiacs
- Odorous urine when eating asparagus may be a sign of urinal tract cleansing
- Bitter after-taste may be reduced by proper preparation
For passionate gardeners:
If growing asparagus – consider to harvest only from the second year!
Image from https://www.almanac.com/plant/asparagus#
This was a quick overview and for those who want to learn more – just continue reading!
Can you eat asparagus raw?
Yes, you can. Asparagus can be eaten raw as almost all other vegetables on a market. Asparagus does not contain any biologically active substances that are hazardous to health, so that it is present in green potatoes (solanine), cassava (linamarin) or certain fruit seeds (amygdalin). It has a well-balanced, sweet, sulfury and buttery notes.
Vegetable compounds vary from one type of vegetable to another. There are no standard rule covering all the possible cases. For instance, cassava should be cooked to desactivate its toxic compound, while green potatoes and fruit seeds with amygdalin should be completely avoided. A few eaten apple seeds, however, would make no harm.
Raw asparagus constituents and benefits
- Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis L.) is a high-fiber vegetable. It means, asparagus works as a mild laxative effect and provides for regular bowel movement.
- Asparagus contains around 30% of crude protein 20 % of fiber and 35% of carbohydrates. Among the mineral elements, potassium, sodium calcium, iron, and zinc are known (amount of naturally occurring sodium is low, around 2 mg/100 g). It also contains vitamins A, C, K, B group, and folic acid.
- Asparagus is a rich source of various bioactive phytochemicals, particularly antioxidants (carotenoids, polyphenols, flavonoids and vitamin C). Antioxidant rutin may help with heart diseases, prevent colitis and inflammatory bowel dieseas, reduce heamorrhages. Glutathione is known as an intracellular antioxidant which directly protects cells against oxidative damage.
- From ancient times, asparagus is known as an aphrodisiac. It may have benefits for fertility, as contains natural folic acid, antioxidants like vitamin C and has urinal tract cleansing properties.
- Asparagus also contains saponins and asparagusic acid which will be discussed in the section Side effects.
There are up to 300 species of asparagus. Aphrodisiac property is known from the history and nowadays scientific experiments for the extracts made from dried roots of Asparagus racemnosus. However, as commonly eatable Asparagus officinalis has cleansing properties for urinary tract, it is supposed to posses similar aphrodisiac properties, even if they are not as well expressed as in Asparagus racemnosus species.
Side effects and contraindications
- Uncomfortable side-effect such as gas may occur if constipation or slower bowel movements are already occur.
- Odorous urine
- Asparagusic acid, a sulphur containing compound is unique to asparagus. It’s smell cannot be detected from raw or cooked vegetable, however, when eaten, it may produce odorous urine. Asparagusic acid is concentrated in asparagus spears (rather then in “woody” ends) – the eatable part of the vegetable. The smell derives from asparagusic acid. After digestion, it breaks down into sulphur-based compounds, which, in their turn, have a strong, unpleasant scent. The reason why not all individuals produce odorous smell while eating asparagus is unknown. However, the reason might be closely related to the effect of cleansing the urinary tract and neutralizing excess of ammonia, which can cause fatigue and sexual disinterest.
- White asparagus may have a sporadic bitter off-taste
- Bitter taste is caused by the natural compounds saponins (asparasaponins). Slightly different types of saponins contribute to a bitter taste of raw and cooked asparagus spears.
Bitter taste is the most intensive in the very top part of the spears (1 cm) and the “woody” ends (5 cm).
Bitterness decreases if going from the peel to inside of asparagus spears.
- Some people may have an allergy to asparagus – then just avoid it. The allergy might be related to specific natural compounds which are found in a non-eatable foliage which is produced by a plant in the first year of growing (see more info below in the How asparagus grows section).
Odorous urine may be treated as a side effect with beneficial health properties, as asparagusic acid contributes to the cleansing of urinal tract and eliminating excess of ammonia from the body. Odorous urine in this case may serve as an indicator of cleansing from unnecessary and potentially harmful compounds, stored in the body.
How asparagus grows
Asparagus plant grows from “crowns”, a kind of multiple thin root bunch. It produces a rich foliage in the first year (which is not eatable and may cause skin irritation when touched) and posonous red-color berries. Tender spears are harvested only from the second year after planting! More info about planting asparagus in the article Growing asparagus: planting, growing, and harvesting asparagus by Catherine Boeckmann.
Before you start with any raw asparagus recipe
Raw asparagus can be easy and pleasant to chew and with less bitter after-taste when following two main rules:
- Remove the woody ends of the spears
- Use a vegetable peeler to remove its skin.
Once you have removed the woody ends and the skin of asparagus, it may be served directly, or used in salads or as an appetizer.
Use whole, or shred, grate or cut it into fine pieces. Thinner pieces will be easier to chew, however, eating whole stalks brings a new experience to the palate. Toss the whole stalks or pieces in a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice if desired.
In the majority of recipes it is generally advised only to cut off the woody ends. Peeling the skin additionally is a game changing step to make raw asparagus more delicious!
Raw asparagus recipes
The are plenty online recipes with raw asparagus. Here are just a few links to the best ones:
Shaved Raw Asparagus with Parmesan Dressing by Mark Ladner
Nowadays, frozen, dehydrated, canned or otherwise pre-packed vegetables are available all year round. However, there is nothing better than eating a fresh version when the plant is in season. Don’t miss a chance!
The conclusions drawn and the assessment of the health benefits/risks are restricted to information appearing in the scientific literature
References of scientific articles on Page 2
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