Don't Be Misled: Fiji Asparagus Is Nothing Like Its Namesake

When it comes to Southeast Asian cuisine, you may think of your favorite Thai, Indian, or Filipino foods. But have you ever tried Fijian? Being an island nation, dishes in Fiji often incorporate fresh, raw seafood. Octopus, shellfish, Mahi-Mahi, and Mackerel are among the country's most popular choices, and taro, a purple root vegetable, is also often showcased in Fijian cuisine.

Common Fijian dishes often combine native ingredients with various cultural influences (via Turtle Fiji). With nearly 40% of the Fijian population descending from India, Fiji's cuisine is full of creamy curries and spices like cumin and garam masala. But there is one fibrous delicacy that is a popular ingredient across the country.

Saccharum edule, commonly known as Fiji asparagus, can be found throughout the island as an ingredient in homemade curries, canned on shelves or being eaten raw. And oddly, despite the name, Fiji asparagus has no relation to the asparagus plant at all (via Atlas Obscura).

What is Fiji asparagus?

Fiji asparagus is a species of sugarcane that goes by many names, including duruka, and is primarily known in Papua New Guinea as pitpit (via The Fiji Times). It has also been called telur tebu in Malaysia (via Taste Atlas).

This perennial, grass-like plant grows tall and features an edible flower covered in tough sheaths. Before the plant is shucked, it bears a resemblance to asparagus — at least with a stretch of the imagination. It has a slender green stalk with a leafy top and once the flower head is opened, the Fiji asparagus is lightly-colored and soft (via Taste Atlas).

Originating in Fiji, Fiji asparagus prefers wet and tropical environments. Agropedia notes that a warm, extensive growing season, high humidity and high rainfall allow for maximum sugar production.

What does Fiji asparagus taste like?

Each variety of sugarcane can have a slightly different flavor, but they all tend to have a naturally sweet taste, according to The Spruce Eats. The more refined the plant gets, the sweeter it will be. Fiji asparagus is a popular sugarcane plant and cultivated for its great tasting flavor, according to Atlas Obscura. The site also notes this specific variety of sugarcane is compared to the taste of corn, sugary and starchy.

How to cook with Fiji asparagus

Fiji asparagus can be prepared in a variety of ways. Locals often eat it raw, but it is not advisable for first-timers (via Plantation Island Resort). It can also be simply steamed or roasted and served as is. Cooking it with coconut milk is another simple way to eat it. The plant for these methods can be obtained either from a can or fresh from a market (via The Fiji Times).

Fiji asparagus has fibrous and porous texture, making it the perfect addition to sauce-based dishes. It absorbs the liquid well, making for a satisfying meal and setting the platform for a popular addition to many curry dishes.

Where to buy Fiji asparagus

If you want to try Fiji asparagus for yourself, you may have to travel a long way. It is rare to find this plant outside of Southeast Asia and Fiji is the best country to go to in order to find Fiji asparagus. In Suva, the capital of Fiji, the market sells Fiji asparagus, along with a variety of other fruits, vegetables, and seafood. However, time to buy Fiji asparagus is short. It is mainly available from May until June and for a bag of 10, you'll pay $10 (via the Fiji Times).

Aside from the Sava market, you can find fresh or canned Fiji asparagus at various other road-side or supermarket locations scattered across Southeast Asia. You can also find Fiji asparagus available to buy online.

Nutritional benefits of Fiji asparagus

Fiji asparagus is considered healthy and nutritional. It's a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C and one gram of Fiji asparagus has only 34 calories (via My Fitness Pal).

Fijian cuisine is considered to be an extremely healthy cuisine. Of all the Pacific Island nations, it is widely considered the country with the healthiest diet. Often Fijians utilize healthy cooking methods, like roasting fresh foods over an open fire, according to Turtle Fiji. When Fiji asparagus is prepared in this way, or added to a healthy dish, it is a very beneficial dietary choice.