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perennial garden vegetable (Asparagus officinalis) of the family Liliaceae (lilylily,
common name for the Liliaceae, a plant family numbering several thousand species of as many as 300 genera, widely distributed over the earth and particularly abundant in warm temperate and tropical regions.
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 family), native to the E Mediterranean area and now naturalized over much of the world. As in the other species of this Old World genus of succulent plants, the stems are green and function as leaves, while the leaves themselves are reduced to small scales. The tender shoots of asparagus are cut and eaten in the spring. It grows wild in the salt marshes of Europe and Asia, where it has also been under cultivation from antiquity. In early times it was regarded as a panacea. Cato in his On Farming gave directions for growing asparagus similar to those in a modern manual of agriculture. The San Joaquin valley is the main asparagus-growing area of the United States; over half the crop is processed, i.e., canned or frozen. The feathery sprays of the mature garden asparagus are sometimes used by florists, but more popular for decorative purposes are other plants of the same genus—the asparagus fern (A. plumosus, not a true fern) and the florists' smilax (A. asparagoides), both climbing vines native to S Africa. The wild smilax, usually called greenbrier, belongs to the genus Smilax. Asparagus is classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.
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Somehow normal everyday asparagus started spreading wild across the country, so if you see some growing randomly, go for it (eat young ones, not old) There are no poisonous lookalikes, whole plant is edible. What we call asparagus is actually the unopened flower buds. Flowers are small green bell shaped. Tiny fernlike “leaves” with red fruits. Berries start green and turn red. It has pea-sized red or green berries with 3-6 black seeds inside. The stalks can grow 3-5 (1-2m) feet with stems that grow from the main stalk. High in vitamin A, C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, anti cancer, anti heart disease, excellent kidney stimulant, urinary tract infections, diuretic, gout, has lots of anti-inflammatories, helps convert amino acids into protein. Roots lower blood pressure. Some say if you eat asparagus every day you will never get cancer.
Edible Plant Guide © 2012 Markus Rothkranz
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genus of branching perennial herbs, subshrubs, and lianas of the family Liliaceae. The leaves are reduced to scales, whose axils bear greatly modified branchlets, or cladodes. The cladodes are often gathered into bundles, and in some asparagus species phylloclades are observed. The small flowers are for the most part diclinous; the fruit is a berry.

There are about 300 species of asparagus, distributed in the Old World, mainly in arid regions. The USSR has about 30 species. The common, or garden, asparagus (A. officinalis) is of the greatest economic significance. It is a dioecious plant. There are some specimens, however, that bear male flowers on some of the stems and female flowers on others; bisexual flowers may occur along with unisexual ones. The common asparagus grows wild in Western Europe, the Mediterranean region, the Balkans, the European USSR, the Caucasus, and Western Siberia. The plant is cultivated in Western Europe, India, Japan, Northeast China, Algeria, Egypt, the USA, and the USSR. Cultivation of the crop in the USSR is on a small scale and is concentrated in the central and southern zones of the European USSR, the Northern Caucasus, Transcaucasia, and the Crimea.

The common asparagus was cultivated initially as a medicinal plant and later as a vegetable crop (var. altilis). The stem is 120–150 cm tall. Suitable for food are the young, juicy, etiolated underground stalks (white asparagus) and the young above-ground stalks that reach a height of 15–20 cm (green asparagus). Asparagus stalks contain about 2 percent protein and 2.4 percent carbohydrates (not counting cellulose). The vitamin content is as much as 40 mg percent vitamin C, 0.19 mg percent vitamin B¡, 0.14 mg percent vitamin B2, 1.0 mg percent vitamin PP, and 1.3 mg percent provitamin A (more than in tomatoes or cabbage). Asparagus may be boiled, sautéed, or canned; it may also be used as a coffee substitute. The roots and young stalks contain the alkaloid asparagine, which is used medicinally.

There are numerous varieties of the common asparagus, which are divided by color into three groups: green-tipped (Snow Head, Spanish), red-tipped (Argenteuil Early and Late are the most common and most productive), and white-tipped (Giant, Mammoth Columbian White).

Asparagus is propagated by seedlings; less frequently a shrub is divided to form new plants. The crop grows well on loose, fertile soils that have been treated with organic fertilizers (60–80 tons/ ha). The first stalks are harvested in the third season; the plantations are used until they are ten to 15 years old. Harvesting takes place in early spring. The aboveground stalks are cut, and the underground stalks are dug up and cut above the root collar (crown). The average yield is 30–35 quintals/ha. During the winter asparagus is raised in hothouses, hotbeds, and cellars from two-or three-year-old rhizomes stored since autumn.

In Japan the species A. colchinchinensis is cultivated. Candy is made from the tubers, and the plant is also used medicinally. A number of asparagus species, including the asparagus fern (A. plumosus) and A. sprengeri, are often cultivated as ornamentals.


Ipat’ev, A. N. Ovoshchnye rasteniia zemnogo shara. Minsk, 1966.
Girenko, M. M. Sparzha. Leningrad, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Asparagus officinalis. A dioecious, perennial monocot belonging to the order Liliales; the shoot of the plant is edible.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any Eurasian liliaceous plant of the genus Asparagus, esp the widely cultivated A. officinalis, having small scaly or needle-like leaves
2. the succulent young shoots of A. officinalis, which may be cooked and eaten
3. asparagus fern a fernlike species of asparagus, A. plumosus, native to southern Africa
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005