Asparagus was first cultivated in Greece about 2,500 years ago. In fact, the name asparagus is Greek for "stalk" or "shoot." The ancient Greeks believed that asparagus had medicinal qualities and could cure toothaches and bee stings. The cultivation of asparagus was adopted by the Romans, who carried it throughout Europe and Great Britain. From there, its popularity spread to the rest of the world. Traditionally, asparagus was a Northern Hemisphere crop, but today it is cultivated worldwide. The United States is the world's largest supplier of asparagus, with most cultivation concentrated in California.
The asparagus plant is a perennial but requires three seasons to mature. In its first season, a crown forms with 6 inches of root. In its second season, the crown develops into a fern. Asparagus can be harvested in its third season, but the plant does not reach its prime until 6 to 8 years of age. At peak age, an asparagus field can yield up to 2 tons per acre. Because its growing season is short and it must be harvested by hand, asparagus can be expensive. Asparagus appears in American markets as early as February, when the first California crops are harvested, but the peak season in the West is from late April to late May and, elsewhere in the United States, from May through July. Throughout the rest of the year, fresh asparagus may be available from Mexico and South America.
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