You think you know asparagus, that harbinger of spring? Did you know that asparagus is a member of the lily family, along with onions and garlic? Did you know that asparagus can grow up to 10 inches in a 24-hour period?
Here are some other factoids you may find surprising about the spring vegetable.
1. Asparagus historically was heralded as an aphrodisiac, probably because of its phallic shape.
2. Recent research suggests eating asparagus can help ease hangovers and protect liver cells against alcohol's toxins: It boosts levels of key enzymes that break down the alcohol.
3. About 40 percent of people experience strong-smelling urine after eating asparagus, a sulfurlike odor that results from the digestion of certain amino acids. Some people are genetically unable to smell the odiferous urine.
4. Five ounces of asparagus contain 60 percent of the recommended daily intake of folic acid, which prevents heart disease and birth defects. Other possible benefits include preventing cancer and urinary tract infections, easing arthritic pain.
5. White asparagus comes from the same plant as green asparagus, but it is grown underground to block sunlight and prevent photosynthesis, thus inhibiting production of chlorophyll. Purple asparagus is genetically modified, but once you cook it, it turns green.
6. The German town of Schwetzingen claims to be the "Asparagus Capital of the World," and holds its annual Spargelfest (asparagus festival) in May. The person who grows the heaviest stalk is named Spargel King or Queen.
Sources: California Asparagus Commission, Institute of Food Technologists, Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, The Food Encyclopedia