History of Asparagus
Asparagus is a perennial herbaceous plant perhaps originating from Mesopotamia. The interest in this plant as a vegetable dates back to antiquity, but it seems that only at the end of the Middle Ages began its cultivation on a large scale. With the discovery of the New World also the asparagus crossed the ocean and found new land suitable for its cultivation. Worldwide, the largest producers are China, Peru, Mexico, the United States and South Africa; in Europe, Spain, France, Germany and Italy, which has the highest unit yields.
The Mediterranean tradition prefers green asparagus, while in Northern Europe and also in Veneto and Lombardy dominates the preference for white shoots. The edible part of the plant is the “turione” which has diuretic and laxative properties.
Historical information on the cultivation of asparagus in Cantello have been found in the parish archives and date back to 1831. Historical documents show that the asparagus was offered to the Church and subsequently auctioned by the parish priest to compensate for ecclesiastical expenses. In 1863 the most conspicuous offer was represented by biscuits with 175 lire and immediately following that of asparagus with 89.22 lire, already at the time the asparagus was a very important agricultural product in the country.
In 1863 in fact some inhabitants of Cantello went to Rome to visit the Pope: as a tribute to the Pontiff decided to bring bunches of asparagus, not only become a source of agricultural income, but also a real symbol of representation of the country of Cantello .
Finally, in 1939 the “Asparagus Fair in Cantello” was established, a traditional event, which every year attracts both locals and citizens of the municipalities of the province of Varese, Milan and Como. On this occasion, the best producer in the area was elected.
Tradition is always fully respected and every year in May this festival is held where folklore, music, songs, dances and asparagus tasting enliven the Cantellese evenings.