We know spring is here when local asparagus starts to become available. There are many ways to use this delicious vegetable from breakfast to dinner.
Art Rachen - Unsplashed
Asparagus is a sign that spring is here. This tasty vegetable can be used in so many ways - as a side dish, in casseroles, egg dishes, soups etc. Only young asparagus shoots are desired because as they get older the stalks will get woody. It's a herbaceous perennial plant that grows between 40-60 inches tall.
History of Asparagus
Asparagus dates back as far as the first century where the Greeks and Romans used it for a vegetable and for medicinal purposes. The Romans ate the asparagus fresh when in season but also dried it for later use. It was first discovered in the wild in Europe and came later to North America by European settlers around 1655. Asparagus plants take a few years to mature but can keep producing for 20-30 years. It comes in a variety of colours - green, white, and purple.
Asparagus may be low in calories but is a good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It contains nutrients like Vitamin K and folate and micronutrients such as iron and zinc. Antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables help protect our Gil Ndjouwou - Unsplashed cells from damage like aging and chronic inflammation that can be caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. Asparagus, along with other green vegetables contains these important antioxidants. It is also a good source of fiber so is beneficial to our digestive system.
Choosing and Storing Asparagus
When you are shopping for asparagus at the grocery store or farmers markets, look for firm, straight, smooth stalks that are a rich green colour with a small amount of white at the bottom. The tips should be tightly closed and not starting to spread out or sprout. Asparagus should also be standing upright (not limp looking) in cold fresh water or have a damp pad keeping the bottom of the stalks moist so they don't become dry and flaky. Thinner stalks apparently don't mean they are Christina Rumpf- Unsplashed
more tender than thicker ones however it's best to get a bunch of stalks with the same thickness so they all cook the same.
To store asparagus when you get home it's important that the stems stay moist but the rest of the asparagus stays dry. Trim the ends about a 1/2" and don't wash before storing. You can either store upright in a glass jar with a little bit of water and cover with a plastic bag or put the asparagus in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel wrapped around the bottom stems and store in your vegetable drawer. Asparagus should stay fresh for 3-4 days.
Using Asparagus in Recipes
Asparagus can be prepared many different ways - steaming, grilling on the BBQ, roasting in the oven, sautéing or boiled when making soup.
Recipe ideas include using asparagus in omelets, salads, with pasta, in soup, frittatas, side dishes, casseroles, on pizza and more.
Asparagus and Cauliflower Soup
This soup gets its creaminess from the added cauliflower. Thyme and oregano add a nice herb taste.
Best Asparagus Recipes - Academy of Culinary Nutrition
A great blog post all about asparagus plus 22 recipes you will want to check out!
Wendy Behenna is a retired Medical Laboratory Technologist who now uses the kitchen as a "lab" to create healthy, real food dishes. As a graduate of the Culinary Nutrition Program, she wants to share the knowledge she acquired to help people with meal planning and cooking skills, especially those transitioning to a gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle. She is also a Certified Tea Sommelier and loves incorporating tea in her recipes when possible.