Every September winter-weary shoppers across the country are thrilled to see one of the first (and most tasty) signs of spring hit the supermarket shelves. Along with daffodils, the country’s asparagus harvest is a welcome signal of warmer days to come.
This year is no exception with a bumper harvest expected. Chair of the NZ Asparagus Council, Mike Arnold, says around 40 growers spread throughout the country are looking forward to bringing their 2019 crop to market.
“Fresh New Zealand asparagus is in high demand with about 95% sold to the local market and the remainder exported to international markets such as Japan and Singapore,” says Arnold.
These tasty little spears might be touted as the latest superfood, but their reputation as a health powerhouse is centuries old. Cultivated by early civilisations, asparagus was a favourite of Julius Caesar among many others, famed not only for its flavour but also its rumoured health benefits, particularly as an aphrodisiac!
While modern science hasn’t proven this claim to be the ‘Viagra of vegetables’, David Smith, Chairperson of The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust, says contemporary studies of the nutritional content of asparagus point to a much broader array of dietary benefits.
“Asparagus is a great source of dietary fibre and folate, a source of a range of vitamins such as niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamins B6, C and K, and it contains a significant amount of potassium,” says Smith.
Add to that a powerful detoxifying compound that can help to break down carcinogens and recent research suggesting asparagus could help control type-2 diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels and increasing insulin, it becomes clear that asparagus are a must for any healthy diet.
We should all be eating more vegetables, and what more enjoyable way to get some greens into your daily routine than with a serving of asparagus. Serve up this healthy and delicious treat without the fuss - asparagus is so easy and quick to prepare: lightly steam it and serve with a poached egg and parmesan, pan-fry it in olive oil or butter and garlic, roast it with tomatoes and grill on the BBQ.
Celebrate the arrival of spring with this super spear and you can be sure that every bite is doing you good.
As well as packing a real nutrition punch, the hangover-reducing powers of these mighty little spears are also worth considering. Containing enzymes that break down alcohol, a healthy serving of asparagus before a night out could be the secret to a clear head the following day!
With a limited season, fresh asparagus is available from September to December. Make the most of this window and kickstart your summer by adding some green goodness into your diet. Eating seasonal produce is an affordable and tasty way to make sure you and your family are eating at least 5+ servings of a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables every day – benefitting the brain as well as the body.