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Asparagus (Asparagus Officinalis)

A cultivated member of the lily family. White is blanched by being covered with earth; green is cut at soil level.

The name is derived from the Persian word 'asparag' - meaning a sprout, and it was certainly cultivated by the Ancient Romans.

Asparagus is particularly expensive as for the first two years after sowing, the plant is unproductive - and only builds-up slowly after that.

The season is also short, beginning in Britain at beginning of April and traditionally ending on mid-summers day. This ending is to preserve the energy of the plants for future years.

Asparagus can be gently boiled, or steamed vertically in a special container. This ensures that the tips, which need less cooking, aren't over cooked. Traditional accompaniments are melted butter or Hollandaise sauce.

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