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Monday, April 28, 2014


Fresh Green Asparagus
Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCat esparaguat, espárrec, Cat espàrechs, L. Asparagus officinalis, Ar. isfarāj or asfarāj, Hisp Ar. junjul, Fr. asperge, Eng asparagus. Greeks and Romans found them cultivated as a delicacy in Egypt and subsequently took them back to their countries. The Lusitanians consumed them in the 2nd C BC. Romans first cultivated them for to make medicines and later they became luxury food at their feasts. It is thought that asparagus were cultivated in Spain when under the Roman Empire but during the Visigothic rule in Spain consumption of asparagus declined.

Upon the arrival of Ziryab, the famous Kurd musician, in 822 he found green asparagus growing wild around Cordova where he became a member of the caliphate’s court (see Ziryab). He reintroduced consumption of asparagus in Al-Andalus cuisine, which brought about the cultivation in Spain of white asparagus (espárragos).

Aphrodisiac asparagus were those with thick pale stems between purple and rose color. They have to be firm from top to bottom. They were eaten daily for fortification with fat, egg yolk and ground condiments.

Less erotic were wild asparagus, Cast. trigueros (green, Ar. asfaraŷ). Wild asparagus, which has more flavor but the least valued, was used in the same way as cultivated white asparagus. The difference between the three types is that white asparagus receives no sun, being protected by mounds turf, purple asparagus is that which has been exposed to a little sun light prior to building the mounds and green asparagus is totally exposed to the sun.

They were served hot or cold, in stuffing, as a dish alone, with meats, cilantro, chickpeas and other ingredients. One medieval recipe calls for asparagus stuffed with minced meat, cilantro, pepper, caraway, olive oil and egg yolks. Once stuffed, they were boiled in water and then mixture was thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs and more minced meat. Always, meatballs were served with this dish. Asparagus roots with sprouts were thought exquisite. Powders were made from them were considered to be a good aphrodisiac.

Preparing Fresh White Asparagus for Cooking
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Medicinally, this vegetable relieves bee stings when directly rubbed on them. It was used in syrups for rheumatism, insomnia, nerves and diabetes.

The fall of Arab domination in Seville and Cordova, in the 13th century, renewed the decline of asparagus but Muslims in Granada kept up the tradition. The 13th Century Al-Andalus manuscript contains four recipes for asparagus. It is interesting to note that the 14th Century Catalan manuscript Sent Soví also contains four recipes for asparagus but Nola’s Catalan manuscript from the 15th century makes no mention of asparagus at all.

Frying Breaded Asparagus
Photo by: Lord-Williams
It is known that asparagus did not find their way to the rest of Europe until the 16th C. They were documented in England in 1559. Later, Pepys wrote that he liked them very much. See verduras.

[Anón/Grewe. 1982:CXVII:142:CXVIII:142.CXVIIII:143 etc; Anón/Huici. 1966:257:151-152; Arjona. 1983:32; Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:129; Bodelón. 1994:77; Bolens. 1990:29:329; ES: Sorrenti. Apr 4, 02; Groundes-Peace. 1971:24; and Muñoz.



1 bunch of asparagus, about 12 ounces
salt to taste
1 egg
1 c flour
olive oil for frying
½ c white wine[1]
Uniquely Delicious
Photo by: Lord-Williams 
mixed seasoning, which could include:
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 tbsp ginger scrapings
1/2 tsp nutmeg 

1 tsp sugar


Wash and peel asparagus. Cut off tough ends. Fill a pot with salted water and bring to a boil.

Add the asparagus and boil, until almost done. (White asparagus take longer than green asparagus. White asparagus may take10 minutes if well peeled, while green asparagus may take as little as 2 minutes.) Remove, pat dry and gently squeeze each stem to try to remove excess water, using a cloth or paper towels.

Dip each stem into slightly beaten egg and then in flour. Gently fry in olive oil until almost done. Heat the wine and sprinkle it over them, then the seasoning and sugar and serve.

[1] Balsamic vinegar is a substitute if wine is not desired.

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