asparagus is a member of the lily family (ooh aah). it’s tender and succulent features have been considered a delicacy since ancient times, and it contains a diverse amount of nutrients essential for the human body. fun fact: asparagus was first culitvated in greece and its name means “stalk”…thanks grecians!
may – june
take me out + treat me right, iight?
• asparagus usually comes in three sizes: pencil-thin, medium and jumbo. pencil-thin asparagus is great for stir-fries and sauteing. jumbo asparagus is good for roasting or grilling, and best when you want to serve whole spears. medium spears work in almost any cooking method (yippee!)
• first: before you pick out the asparagus, how much do you really need? keep in mind asparagus loses about half of its total weight once it’s been trimmed and cooked. put it this way – for three to four people, you’d need about a pound of asparagus for a side dish
• there are three types of asparagus: white, purple and green:
• white asparagus has a more delicate flavor and is white because the plants never see the light of day! they are covered in mulch to prevent them from developing chlorophyll, which gives plants their green color. the work required to achieve this is almost five times as what it takes to produce green asparagus, which makes the white variety much more expensive.
• white asparagus must be completely peeled from tip to tail, and should be well-cooked and truly tender, not al dente. do not cook green and white asparagus together.
• buy white asparagus from markets where it’s is kept chilled – not displayed in a warm area. the spears should show no sign of shrinking or wrinkling and should be pearly, shiny, completely closed, free of ridges, and totally white. don’t bother if they look stringy, bruised or dented at the base – and if there’s fiber sticking out, forget it. they must be firm and juicy. and don’t forget, bigger is better! big spears are sweeter, juicier, and smoother-textured.
• if you’re not going to use white asparagus within a day or two of purchase, don’t get it! and make sure to store in the coldest part of your fridge (see more storage details below)
• purple asparagus turns dark green when cooked, has thicker stalks and is commonly found in england and italy.
• choose bright, solid spears without a trace of shriveling. the base should snap with no visible fiber. larger spears are sweeter and juicier, and store in the coldest part of your fridge (see more storage details below)
• green asparagus is the most common and can be found in most grocery stores. green asparagus should be cooked al dente.
• when selecting asparagus, look for brightly colored and smooth skinned stalks, in addition to compact, tightly closed tips – stay away from tips on the verge of flowering or that are moist. try and get spears that have the same diameter so that they’ll cook evenly. spears that are ridged or look dry have lost their flavor (ew). check the root ends to see how dried out they are; if they are truly brown or cracked, reach for a different bundle. while you’re at it, get your nose in there! it should have a clean vegetable smell with no odor of rot whatsoever (and if it does…get the hell outta there, crazy). if not available locally, try to buy from cali
• for the best taste, eat asparagus right after they were harvested
• to store, do not leave the asparagus in the plastic baggie – instead, undo the bunches, loosely wrap the asparagus in a paper bag, and store in the coldest part of your fridge. if you need to store the veggies for more than a day or two, set it, tips up, in a container of water
♪ just eat it ♫
• before you begin cooking, take a minute to snap off the tough bottom ends of the asparagus. when you snap, make sure your hands really are near the bottom – a stalk will snap in the middle if you’re not careful!
• to clean, wash the asparagus in cool running water. if the tips have any sand on them, dunk them in and out of water, then rinse thoroughly.
• if you have nice fat spears, peel their tough skin away. using a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus from about halfway up the spear toward the root end. never peel the tips. use a light hand, or you’ll peel off too much of the sweet core. asparagus can be peeled a few hours ahead of time, wrapped and refrigerated
• most people know asparagus can be boiled, steamed and roasted…but did you know asparagus can also be served raw, sauteed and even deep fried?! (cray cray)
• asparagus cooks quickly, so make sure to have all your ingredients ready beforehand
• want to make sure your asparagus is done? pick up a spear with a pair of kitchen tongs: if the asparagus bends over slightly, it’s done
• if you plan to serve the asparagus cold, plunge it immediately into cold water to stop it from cooking further and refrigerate
healthy or nah?
• eating asparagus before or after a night out can help soothe hangover headaches..who’da thunk
• asparagus contains fibers, folates, chromium and vitamins A, C, E and K
• asparagus can cause you to pee more, which helps the body get rid of excess salts. the amino acid asparagine is responsible for this diuretic effect. note + tmi: asparagus can make your pee smell weird – but it’s totally harmless and normal. don’t sweat it!
• asparagus does not contain fats or cholesterol!
• a strong anticancer food with antioxidant capabilities? sign me up! asparagus is an excellent dietary source of the potent antioxidant glutathione
give it a whirl
• baked asparagus fries with roasted garlic aioli
• asparagus and arugula pasta salad
• chicken and asparagus stir-fry
• oven-roasted asparagus
• asparagus and gruyere tart
• ribboned asparagus salad with lemon
• shaved asparagus pizza
• asparagus, goat cheese and lemon pasta
• roasted parmesan asparagus