May 20, 2015
It’s asparagus season and what’s not to like – sweet, nutritious, low in calories, and a significant source of vitamins and minerals. And it just tastes great. Some like the thin versions but according to my grandmother the thicker the spear, the more tender and tasty and I would agree. And there’s a reason for this that she may not have known. Each spear has a set number of tough fibers that run through its length and in the thick spears there’s more meat between them.
Green asparagus is a prime source of folic acid with just 1/2 cup providing 1/3 the daily allowance of this important nutrient. White asparagus, more popular in Europe, is not as nutrient packed. According to Michigan Asparagus, in ancient times, asparagus was revered as an aphrodisiac.
Most of us buy it at the market as it takes a few years to establish a bed and well, you also have to have the garden space to begin with. Although there would be nothing better than strolling out to cut a few stalks for dinner, you can get good asparagus from your local market, farmer’s market, or organic grower.
Here are a few tips for selecting the best asparagus and enjoying it:
- Avoid smashed tips which tend to indicate older bunches in the supermarket
- Don’t store asparagus wet – either stand the spears upright in a jar of water or wrap them in a towel and place them into a plastic bag
- Before cooking, remove the tough ends by either snapping them or cutting if they are thick and don’t easily snap. Reserve the ends for use in soup or risotto
- If enjoying fatter stalks, some people peel the lower part of the stalk for greater tenderness after cooking but this is really an unnecessary step
- Enjoy asparagus raw, thinly sliced with a lemon vinaigrette
- Combine asparagus with other spring vegetables such as peas, green garlic or spring onions
There are many ways to cook asparagus. Here are a some simple suggestions:
Roasting – Drizzle fat spears with olive oil, sprinkle with a little Kosher salt, toss until coated and roast in a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes in a cast iron skillet of a baking sheet. Turn the spears and roast for 5 more minutes and squeeze some fresh lemon over them to serve or just enjoy them as they are.
Steaming – 4 to 5 minutes will do it. This is a good method for thinner stalks. The asparagus is done when just fork tender. Eat plain, with a little organic butter, or a squeeze of lemon.
Boiling – Boil over medium heat in a covered skillet with about 1/2 inch of water for around 10 minutes. Make sure the water doesn’t boil out and turn the spears once or twice. Spears should be bright green when done and fork tender.
Many people like to top asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and my grandmother used to put in on toast points with Hollandaise, but I think it’s so delicious that nothing is really needed.
What’s really special for me is that every time I have asparagus, I think of my grandmother in her apron and her coveted asparagus patch, heading out with a knife to cut just the right spears and bringing them in to cook immediately for lunch or dinner. Treasured and delicious memories for sure.
– JE Forbes
Photo credits: top – flickr.com/liz west; cutting asparagus/asparagus steamer – British Asparagus