Dine & Wine

Meet Asparagus, The King of Vegetables! Not Just for Vegetarians

Magda Michalska 20 January 2022 min Read

The season for asparagus is very short as it starts around the 23rd of April (St George’s Day) and lasts only until June. Its special qualities and delicate flavor have rendered it a hero of vegetables, loved by everyone from kings to artists. See asparagus in art and hurry up to get the last ones!

Asparagus art Roman mosaic
Roman Mosaic, 4th century, Vatican Museums, Vatican. 

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

Asparagus art Adriaen Coorte, A Bundle of Asparagus, 1703
 Adriaen Coorte, Asparagus and red currants on a stone ledge, 1703, Christie’s.

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

Asparagus art
Édouard Manet, Asparagus, 1880, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

Asparagus art Édouard Manet, Bunch of Asparagus, 1880, Wallraf-Richartz Museum
Édouard Manet, Bunch of Asparagus, 1880, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Germany.

Is it due to its phallic shape that the French word asperge means also “penis”? Is that why Manet liked to paint asparagus so much…?

Asparagus art
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 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.

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

Asparagus art
Jan Wittenberg, Still life with Asparagus, Orange and Egg, 1931. Artist’s website.

Asparagus can be enjoyed in company…

Asparagus art
John Morra, Asparagus, 2008, John Pence Gallery.

…but it’s also good just on its own.

Asparagus art louis xiv
Eliot Hodgkin, Asparagus, 1961, Eliot Hodgkin collection.

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

Asparagus art asparagus museum
Francesco Trombadori, Still life with Asparagi, 1928, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy.

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