The vegetable world’s herald of spring is fresh asparagus. One of my all-time favorite vegetables, spring is peak season when asparagus is most abundant and the best price.
Considered a delicacy since ancient times, asparagus has many health benefits. It is anti-inflammatory, provides antioxidants and is beneficial for digestion.
Asparagus is high in fiber, has 4-5 grams of protein per cup, is high in vitamin C, K, and B vitamins including B1, B2, B5 (pantothenic acid) B6 and B9 (folic acid), and is a good source of niacin, choline (also in the B family) and potassium.
How to Buy Asparagus
Look for smooth, bright green spears with compact tips. Most markets store asparagus in shallow bins of water to keep it hydrated. Look for bundles that are the same in diameter so they will cook at the same rate. One pound of asparagus will generally serve four people as a side dish. A serving is approximately 5 medium spears (except for me!).
Thick or Thin?
It’s up to you. The California Asparagus Commission says that “larger sized asparagus comes from younger, more vigorous plants as a rule while the smaller sized asparagus comes from older plants or plants that have been planted closer together than usual.”
How to Store and Prepare Asparagus
Treat asparagus like flowers. Trim the stem (root) ends, stand spears upright in a container with about an inch of water and cover loosely with a plastic bag. Alternatively, wrap stem ends in a damp paper towel and wrap loosely in plastic.
How to Prep Asraragus
To prepare, snap the tough ends off. They will break at their natural place. If you are doing a lot of asparagus, snap off a few ends, then line the rest up and cut them off with a knife.
And although my mom used to trim all of the little points off with a paring knife, there is no need to peel asparagus. If you are served peeled asparagus in a restaurant, it’s probably done for the presentation. Save yourself the time. Don’t bother.
White or Green?
White asparagus is the same plant as green asparagus. When the growing spear breaks through the dirt and meets the sun, it turns green. White asparagus is kept buried or covered so it doesn’t turn green. Some people think it is a delicacy, with a more mild flavor tender stalk. I prefer green asparagus, and it is higher in nutrients than the white.
Ideas for Enjoying Asparagus
Asparagus cooks quickly. Roast it, steam it, grill it, or stir fry it. Asparagus soup (try it with coconut milk) Roast asparagus Serve spears whole as as side dish Chop and add to an omelet or salad Blanch spears in boiling water for 1 minute and serve as part of a vegetable platter with dip Toss chopped, cooked asparagus with pasta, herbs and olive oil Roll strips of Prosciutto around the spears, roast and sprinkle with Parmesan as a side or appetizer.
For a classic side dish, top asparagus with my healthy, yogurt Hollandaise, a must for Easter dinner. Make asparagus risotto, one of my favorites.
Here are a few recipe links:
More Helpful Links
More about asparagus nutrition from WHFoods
Asparagus “tips” from the California Asparagus Commission