History and Traditional Use
Range and Habitat
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis, Asparagaceae) is a herbaceous perennial with stalks that can grow to several feet in height. Most asparagus is harvested once the stalk reaches 6-8 inches in height. The stalk is the edible portion of the plant, along with its pointed, budlike tip.1,2 If asparagus is not harvested, the stalks grow into finely textured, fern-like plants before going dormant in winter.3 In the United States, the primary asparagus producers are the states of California, Washington, and Michigan.4
Depending on the cultivation method, asparagus yields a crop in one of three colors: green, white, or purple. Green asparagus, the most common in the US, is allowed to grow exposed to sunlight until harvested. White asparagus contains no chlorophyll due to human intervention, which involves mounding dirt on the stalk as it grows to shield it from sunlight.
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