Do you love to eat tender, flavorful asparagus? Do you know that Spring has come when fresh, supple asparagus appears in your local grocery store’s produce department? Keep reading to learn why asparagus is so good for you, tips for choosing and preparing asparagus, and recipes featuring this classic Spring vegetable that your whole family will love.
Even though asparagus grown in the United States begins to appear in produce department displays in February, it is most affordable and widely available from April to May. While fresh asparagus has the most delectable flavor and texture, you can find frozen or canned asparagus anytime of year.
In most regions of the United States, you can purchase white, purple, or green varieties of asparagus. Even though green asparagus has long been the variety of fresh asparagus most often seen in local grocery stores, fresh white and purple varieties are becoming easier to find.
The succulent flavor of asparagus has been highly valued since the beginning of human civilization. Asparagus was grown by the farmers of ancient Egypt and those working the land during the height of the Roman Empire alike. It continues to be highly prized with the passage of time.
Eating asparagus is a delicious way to get the nutrients your body needs. It is packed with fiber, folate, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and the B vitamins. Asparagus also has the power to reduce chronic inflammation throughout your body, lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and heart disease.
Asparagus has a unique ability to support your digestive system, promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. This healthy bacteria lowers your risk of developing colon cancer and allergies, while boosting your ability to absorb nutrients. Asparagus is low in calories and low on the glycemic index, making it perfect for almost any eating program or dietary restriction.
When shopping for green asparagus, look for uniformly round, thin, and tender stalks with deep green or slightly purple tips that are tight. The asparagus should have an intense green color and not feel woody or hard. Both white and purple varieties of asparagus should also have round stalks that feel tender and supple and tips that are tight. Remember that your asparagus will decrease by half after trimming and cooking, so be sure to buy enough for the amount of people you plan to serve. A rule of thumb is to buy ½ lb. of asparagus per person you plan to serve.
Keep your asparagus fresh by swathing the ends in a damp paper towel. Be careful to wring out your paper towel completely before wrapping your asparagus. An overly wet cloth can cause the ends of your asparagus to rot. As asparagus sits in your refrigerator, it loses its taste, texture, and nutritional value, so be sure to eat your asparagus within a few days of bringing it home.
When you are ready to prepare your asparagus, trim the ends and give it a bath in a bowl of cool water to remove any of the sandy soil that clings to it. Some suggest holding one asparagus tip at each end and bending it away from you to see where it breaks. This would indicate how much you need to trim off of your asparagus. Others recommend removing 2 inches from the end. Whichever method you choose, the goal is to remove any woodiness at the end of the stalk.
Be careful not to overcook your asparagus. Once it is overcooked, you cannot bring it back. Waterlogged or dried-out asparagus can’t even be turned into a soup or sauce, as the unappetizing texture and flavor caused by overcooking stays with it even after it is pureed. Your asparagus is ready to eat when it has become just tender. It should still have a bit of crispness, or bite, to it.
Asparagus is suitable for a variety of cooking techniques. It can be blanched, steamed, stir-fried, broiled, sauteed, or roasted. If asparagus goes on sale at the grocery store, buy a few extra bundles and freeze them for later. After washing and trimming your asparagus, simply blanch it in salted, boiling water for 2-3 minutes (depending on stalk thickness) and then drop them into an ice-water bath. Once they are cool, about 2-3 minutes, take them out of the bath and pat them dry with paper towels. Package your asparagus in air-tight, freezer-safe containers and stow them in the freezer for up to 8 months.
Recipes Featuring Asparagus: