asparagus

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a native European plant (Asparagus officinalis) of which the young shoots (called ‘spears’) are cut when they are about 25cm long and are eaten as a vegetable

Food

  • A perennial plant of the lily family, Asparagus officinalis. The young shoots are removed in spring. white asparagus is cut below ground when the tips protrude about 5 cm above ground. Green asparagus is cut at ground level when the shoots are about 15cm long. Asparagus should be used as fresh as possible, scraped, carefully washed and cooked in plenty of boiling salted water.

Travel

  • noun a cultivated plant the new shoots of which you eat as a vegetable

Wine

  • an aroma associated with wines made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, especially Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre

Origin & History of “asparagus”

Asparagus comes ultimately from Greek aspáragos (a word related to the Greek verb spargan ‘swell’, to the Latin verb spargere ‘scatter’ – ultimate source of English sparse, disperse, and aspersions – and also to English spark), and has over the past 150 years or so returned to the full Latin form, asparagus, in which it was originally borrowed by English. In the intervening centuries, however, it went through several metamorphoses: in the 16th century, the truncated medieval Latin variant sparagus was current (it also occurs in one isolated example from a book of Anglo-Saxon remedies of around 1000 ad); from then until the 18th century an anglicized version, sperage, was used; and in the 17th century folk etymology (the process by which an unfamiliar word is assimilated to one more familiar) turned asparagus into sparrowgrass. this gradually died out during the 19th century, but the abbreviation grass remains current in the jargon of the grocery trade.
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