Sunday, March 21, 2010

This is the dawning of the age of asparagus

In 1969, I was in my last year of college, Richard Daley was mayor of Chicago, and the United States was mired in a long and unpopular war.1969 was also the year that a group called The Fifth Dimension released the song shown below:

Age of Aquarius

The single held the number one position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and was certified Platinum. The recording also won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Group at the Grammy Awards of 1970.

An awful lot of things have changed in the last 40 years, but some things haven’t.

Both of my children are in their last year of college, Richard Daley is still mayor of Chicago, and it looks like the United States will be stuck in Iraq and/or Afghanistan for another six years or so.

What brought to mind the song was a request that I received from a former co-worker (his nickname is Igor) to explore the health benefits of a particular vegetable.

Ken (his real name) had received an email that claimed that asparagus would cure cancer.

The first place I usually turn to for information is the Urban Legends website ( Although there aren’t ANY foods that will cure cancer, asparagus DOES have a number of health benefits, including the fact that it is an anti-oxidant. As a result, it can REDUCE the chance of getting cancer in the first place.

Besides functioning as a cancer preventive, asparagus also provides the additional benefits listed below:

Asparagus is rich in soluble fiber, which protects against degenerative heart disease. It also has high levels of potassium, which control blood pressure, and it is low in fat and sodium.

Asparagus also contains both rutin and iron, both of which fortify the body’s immune system.

The folic acid in asparagus also stimulates the production of histamines, which improve the ability of both men and women to achieve orgasm.

If THAT’S not enough for you, the fact that it is low in calories can help with weight loss, and the pro-biotics it contains can aid digestion.

Finally, it contains vitamins C and E, which are beneficial for skin, nails and hair.

Asparagus has been used from early times as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavor and diuretic properties. There is a recipe for cooking asparagus in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’s third century AD De re coquinaria, Book III. It was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter. It lost its popularity in the Middle Ages but returned to favor in the seventeenth century.

I have to admit that I don’t eat as many vegetables as I should, but I’ve always enjoyed the taste of asparagus.

Last night, I picked up some fresh asparagus for dinner. Sharon steamed it in the microwave, and it made a nice side dish to go with our shrimp scampi.

If you haven’t had any asparagus for a while, I’d recommend buying some and having it with a meal sometime this week.

Let the sun shine in!

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