Asparagus: 8 cool (and weird) things to know

“A Bunch of Asparagus” (1880), Edouard Manet

Cookin’ it, old-school.  Asparagus has been a part of our culinary palette for a long time — it appears on an Egyptian frieze from 3000 BCE, and Cato the Elder included instructions for planting the vegetable in his farming manual, De Agri Cultura, around 160 BCE.

Let them eat veg. France’s King Louis XIV dubbed asparagus the “king of vegetables” and was the first enthusiast to cultivate the veg in greenhouses for year-round availability.

The nose knows. Quite a few people make jokes that allude to the distinct odor (because, face it, potty humor is the best humor), but the majority of people can’t smell “asparagus pee“– the odor asparagus consumption causes urine to have. It actually takes a specific gene to allow someone to detect the smell, and only 25% of people have that gene.

Perfect Bloody Mary swizzle-stick? Research has shown that the minerals and amino acids in asparagus may relieve some of the effects alcohol has on the body. Some of the enzymes found in asparagus are good at breaking down alcohol, thus alleviating some of the hangover effects of alcohol consumption.

asparagus-simple-cookingSpeaking of headaches… Asparagus is a fantastic vegetable-based source for riboflavin (aka Vitamin B2), which can help reduce the frequency and duration of migraine headaches.

I’m bringing sexy snack. Asparagus is a legendary food aphrodisiac. Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th-century English genius-of-all-trades (he is remembered as a botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer, for heck’s sake) wrote in The English Phystian that asparagus “stirreth up bodily lust in Man or Woman.” This may actually be due to the amount of vitamin E in the vegetable, which boosts the production of sex hormones. And let’s not get started on the “suggestive” shape of the vegetable itself …

Extra credit trivia: And, for the erudite and potty-mouthed among us, here’s your vocab word of the week: the French word for asparagus is asperge; asperge is also a French slang word for penis.

Hungry to know more? There is an entire museum dedicated solely to asparagus. The European Asparagus Museum (Europäisches Spargelmuseum), in Schrobenhausen, Bavaria, Germany celebrates everything about asparagus from its history to its botany, cultivation, art and curiosities.

Photo credit: A Bunch of Asparagus (1880), Edouard Manet, Musee d’Orsay