Why We Love Asparagus by Toby Amidor in Healthy Recipes, In Season, April 5, 2012
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It’s officially asparagus season; get yourself a bunch or two and we’ll tell you how to enjoy them!
Part of the Lily family, asparagus is available from late March through June. There are about 300 varieties of asparagus, 20 of which are edible.
The asparagus plant lives between 8 to 10 years. You can tell the age of the plant by the thickness—the older the plant, the thicker the spear. Asparagus plants grow in sandy areas so it’s important to wash them thoroughly before eating them.
The most common varieties of asparagus are green, white or purple in color. The earliest stalks have a gorgeous apple-green color with slightly purple tips. White asparagus is grown underground and isn’t exposed to sunlight. They have thicker and smoother spears.
One half cup of boiled or steamed asparagus has 20 calories and 2 grams each of protein and fiber. It’s an excellent source of vitamin K and folic acid, a B-vitamin which has been shown to help decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer and birth defects. Asparagus is also a good source of thiamin and vitamins A and C.
Asparagus is high in the flavonoid rutin, which may help reduce inflammation and strengthen blood vessels. It has a good amount of glutathione, which is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Asparagus also contains a plant chemical shown to reduce bone loss, improve sex drive and help fight certain types of cancer.
Use these tips to cook perfect asparagus:
- Large spears of asparagus can have tough skins. Use a veggie peeler to remove them.
- The asparagus tips cook faster than the stalks. Cook stalks standing up in water with the tips slightly above the water. If cooking in a microwave, use a circular dish with the tips facing the center of the dish.
- Do not let asparagus sit in water for too long- they’ll become soggy. Instead, remove from the heat when they’re tender but slightly crisp.
- Try grilling or roasting for sweet and nutty flavor.
Recipes to try:
- Lemon-Parsley Asparagus
- Corn and Asparagus Salad
- Grilled Asparagus
- Garden Risotto
- Seared Tilapia with Asparagus and Spicy Mint Gremolata
- Sautéed Asparagus and Snap Peas