No matter what the weather forecast, nothing says “spring” like the sight of fresh asparagus at your local market. Spears grow fast once the ground temperature reaches 50 degrees, and this spring crop has a harvest season that can last up to 12 weeks.
The asparagus plant is perennial–and pretty–so it makes for a charming hedge. But there’s more to asparagus then just rugged good looks. Asparagus is a rich source of many important nutrients, including vitamins K, A, and C, as well as folate, iron, and fiber. This spring veggie also scores high in B vitamins including riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), and thiamin (vitamin B1). One cup of chopped raw asparagus delivers an impressive amount of nutrition for under 30 calories. So why not rethink your next crudité platter?
Here are a few tips for purchasing and preparing asparagus.
- Choose dark green, firm spears.
- Wrap the woody bottoms in a damp paper towel or stand in a receptacle filled with water, and place in the fridge.
- Use asparagus within 48 hours of purchase for best results, since it’s very perishable.
- Snap off the woody ends with your fingers, then trim the asparagus with a knife. Reserve the ends for soup or stock if you wish.
- Using a vegetable peeler, gently peel asparagus below the tips and wash in cold water.
- Compost the ends or trash them if you don’t have compost. Don’t put them through your garbage disposal.
Simple Steamed Asparagus
Serves 2 to 4
1. Fill the bottom of a skillet with water, and bring it to a boil.
2. Place the spears in a steam basket inside the skillet, reduce the temperature to medium-low, cover and cook for three minutes or until tender.
3. If you’ll be serving the asparagus cold or at room temperature, refresh it in cold water and drain just before serving.
Serves 2 to 4
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. While the oven is heating, spread the spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking dish.
3. Drizzle with olive oil, toss, and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Roast about 10 minutes, until slightly tender and brown.
Enjoy as is, or sprinkle with grated Parmesan, or drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Asian Asparagus Salad
Serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sherry or white wine
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1. Follow the directions for simple steamed asparagus above. Quickly drain, submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process, and blot dry.
2. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, canola oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sherry or white wine, ginger, Tabasco, and sugar.
3. Pour the dressing over the asparagus and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Sprinkle almonds over the asparagus just before serving.