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Meet Asparagus, The King Of Vegetables – Not Only For Vegetarians!

Food

Meet Asparagus, The King Of Vegetables – Not Only For Vegetarians!

The season for asparagus is very short as it starts around the 23rd of April (St George’s Day) and lasts only till June. Its special qualities and delicate flavour have rendered it a hero of vegetables, loved by everyone from kings to artists.

Asparagus in art Roman mosaic

Roman Mosaic, Pompeii, Casa dei Vetti, photo: public domain

The Romans came up with food freezing  in the 1st  cent. BC to preserve their favourite asparagus longer and they devoted whole treaties to the ways it should be farmed (Cato the Elder and his „On Agriculture”).

Asparagus in art Adriaen Coorte, A Bundle of Asparagus, 1703

Adriaen Coorte, A Bundle of Asparagus, 1703, private collection


In the Middle Ages asparagus was used as sedative but with time it gained a more (in)famous association as it was believed to stimulate love passion. A 17th Century herbalist,Nicholas Culpepper, wrote that asparagus “stirs up lust in man and woman”.

Édouard Manet, Asparagus, 1880, Musée d’Orsay, public domain

Édouard Manet, Bunch of Asparagus, 1880, Wallraf-Richartz Museum

Édouard Manet, Bunch of Asparagus, 1880, Wallraf-Richartz Museum

 


Is it for its phallic shape that the French word ‘asperge’ means also ‘penis’? Is that why Manet liked to paint asparagus so much…?

Asparagus in art Netherlands

Jacob Foppens Van Es, Still life with bunches of asparagus, 1631, Sotheby’s

In the Netherlands asparagus was certainly associated with luxury , prosperity and abundance…

Asparagus in art Adriaen Coorte, Life of an earthenware bowl of wild strawberries, a bundle of asparagus and springs of gooseberry and redcurrants, all on stone ledge with a pale blue butterfly above, 1689

Adriaen Coorte, Life of an earthenware bowl of wild strawberries, a bundle of asparagus and springs of gooseberry and redcurrants, all on stone ledge with a pale blue butterfly above, 1689, Sotheby’s


… as together with strawberries and artichokes it symbolized the fruits of Paradise.

Asparagus in art company

Jan Wittenberg, Still life with Asparagus, Orange and Egg, 1931, private collection

Asparagus can be enjoyed in company…

Asparagus in artgood

John Morra, Asparagus, 2008, © John Morra Fine Art


…but it’s also good just on its own.

Asparagus in art louis xiv

Eliot Hodgkin, Asparagus, 1961, private collection, © The estate of Eliot Hodgkin

Not only vegetarians love it since it was the Germans who in 1985 founded a museum dedicated to asparagus.

Asparagus in art asparagus museum

Francesco Trombadori, Still life with Asparagi, 1928, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Rome public domain


Asparagus is simply a ‘king of vegetables’ as king Louis XIV dubbed it.

Find more asparagus inspirations:

     

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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