The first time I saw purple asparagus my jaw dropped. Partly as a reflex action. I mean, you see food this pretty and you open your mouth to take a bite, right?
So that’s exactly what I did. I snapped off a tip and I popped it into my mouth. Purple asparagus spears are so tender and sweet they can be eaten raw. I’ve got the science to prove it.
Purple asparagus gets its color from anthocyanins, the same antioxidants that are found in red cabbage, eggplant and blueberries. Anthocyanins are also what make these foods purple, or makes roses red and delphiniums blue. Purple asparagus has higher concentrations of sugar than green asparagus too. It contains less lignim (the stringy stuff found in asparagus skin) and also less saponin (which can make asparagus seem bitter). All of these scientific facts add up to one conclusion all cooks can understand – purple asparagus spears are sweet and tender. The kind you can eat raw.
I’m not saying you can’t cook purple asparagus. For science’s sake, I steamed several from my Melissa’s Produce package soon after they arrived at my house. Have I said “Thank You” yet?
As with many purple foods, purple asparagus turns green (or greenish) when cooked – though the flavor remains the same. Actually I shouldn’t say purple asparagus turn green, but cooking does cause a chemical reaction in the anthocyanins which reveals the green chlorophyll beneath the purple anthocyanins that was always there.
While we’re on the subject of science, I have more science for you. Actually genetics. Whether cooked or raw, my favorite thing about purple asparagus is that it’s bred to be nice and fat. Perfect for shaving or thinly slicing into a salad.
And I do mean bred to be fat. That’s more of the science I was talking about. The thing is, asparagus is not like a giant sequoia tree. It doesn’t get thicker as it ages. You can’t chop one down and read the rings to see how old it is. Purple asparagus is more like bamboo – it comes out of the ground as thick as it ever gets. Genes, not age make asparagus thick or thin. See how delicious science can be? GREG
I received a complimentary sample of purple asparagus from Melissa’s Produce. All opinions are my own.