- Major entry:
- Asparagus officinalis Linn. Asparagus.
Asparagus acerosus Roxb. Liliaceae.
East Indies and Burma. This species was found by Mason to be a passable substitute for our garden asparagus.
Asparagus acutifolius Linn. Asparagus.
Mediterranean regions. The young shoots are eaten in Italy, Spain, Portugal and by the Greeks in Sicily. They are thin, bitter and often stringy.
Asparagus adscendens Roxb.
Himalayas and Afghanistan. From this plant is made, according to Modeen Sheriff, the genuine sufed mush, called in the Deccan skakakul-hindi and used as a substitute for salep.
Asparagus albus Linn. Garden-Hedge.
Western Mediterranean region. The young heads are cut from wild plants and brought to table in Sicily, but they form but a poor substitute for cultivated asparagus.
Asparagus aphyllus Linn.
Mediterranean region. The young shoots are collected and eaten in Greece.
Asparagus laricinus Burch.
A shrubby species of South Africa. Dr. Pappe says that it produces shoots of excellent tenderness and aromatic taste.
Europe, Caucasian regions and Siberia. This plant, so much esteemed in its cultivated state, is a plant of the seashore and river banks of southern Europe and the Crimea. It is now naturalized in many parts of the world. In the southern parts of Russia and Poland, the waste steppes are covered with this plant. Unger says it is not found either wild or cultivated in Greece, but Daubeny says at the present time it is known under the name of asparaggia, and Booth says it is common. Probably the mythological mention of the asparagus thickets which concealed Perigyne, beloved of Theseus,— the plant, in consequence, being protected by law among the Ionians inhabiting Caria—referred to another species.
Cultivated asparagus seems to have been unknown to the Greeks of the time of Theophrastus and Dioscorides, and the word asparagos seems to have been used for the wild plant of another species. The Romans of the time of Cato, about 200 B. C., knew it well, and Cato's directions for culture would answer fairly well for the gardeners of today, except that he recommends starting with the seed of the wild plant, and this seems good evidence that the wild and the cultivated forms were then of the same type as they are today. Columella, in the first century, recommends transplanting the young roots from a seed-bed and devotes some space to their after-treatment. He offers choice of cultivated seed or that from the wild plant, without indicating preference. Pliny, who also wrote in the first century, says that asparagus, of all the plants of the garden, receives the most praiseworthy care and also praises the good quality of the kind that grows wild in the island of Nesida near the coast of Campania. In his praise of gardens, he says: "Nature has made the asparagus wild, so that any one may gather as found. Behold, the highly-manured asparagus may be seen at Ravenna weighing three pounds.'' Palladius, an author of the third century, rather praises the sweetness of the wild form found growing among the rocks and recommends transplanting it to such places otherwise worthless for agriculture, but he also gives full directions for garden culture with as much care as did Cato. Gesner quotes Pomponius, who lived in the second century, as saying that there are two kinds, the garden and the wild asparagus, and that the wild asparagus is the more pleasant to eat. Suetonius, about the beginning of the second century, informs us how partial the Emperor Augustus was to asparagus, and Erasmus also mentions it.
Asparagus racemosus Willd. Racemose Asparagus.
East Indies, African tropics and Australia. In India, the tubers are candied as a sweetmeat. This preparation, however, as Dutt states, has scarcely any other taste or flavor besides that of the sugar. Firminger says the preserve prepared from the blanched shoots is very agreeable.
Asparagus sarmentosus Linn.
East Indies. The long, fleshy, whitish root is used as food by the people of Ceylon and, in the candied state, is often brought to India from China.
Asparagus verticillatus Linn.
South Russia. The young shoots, according to Chaubard, are eaten in the Peloponesus.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.