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Asparagus

Asparagus

Raw, steamed, grilled, roasted or sautéed, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the flavor of fresh asparagus – one of spring’s most anticipated vegetables. Discover a new recipe or helpful tip for adding some spears to your meals.

Nutrition Highlights

  • Asparagus is a rich source of folic acid, containing about 30 percent Daily Value for ½ cup (about 6 spears or 85 grams) cooked.
  • It’s also a good source of vitamin A for healthy vision, and vitamin K, which assists in blood clotting.
  • Six spears of asparagus contain about 20 calories and 1.5 grams of fiber.

History

  • A native of the eastern Mediterranean region, asparagus has been eaten by humans for at least 3,000 years.
  • The asparagus plant is a perennial, and was once considered a member of the lily family.
  • Newly planted asparagus won’t be ready to harvest for three years; that’s how long it takes for its root system to develop.
  • Under ideal conditions (full sun, well-drained soil, room to grow), an asparagus plant can grow up to 10 inches in a day!
  • Ancient Greeks used asparagus as a pain reliever for toothaches.
  • A 15th century Arabic love manual hailed asparagus as a powerful aphrodisiac.

Varieties

  • Asparagus comes in two varieties: green and purple. White asparagus is actually the same variety as green, except that it’s grown without sunlight, which means it can’t produce chlorophyll.

When is Asparagus in Season?

  • Because it grows so quickly, asparagus is usually one of the first springtime harvests, though it can grow almost year-round in warmer climates, like California's.

How to Choose Asparagus

  • Select stalks that are firm and fresh with tightly closed tips.
  • For even cooking time, choose stalks with a uniform diameter.
  • The larger the diameter of the spears, the more tender they will be – though they may require peeling.

How to Store Asparagus

  • Do not wash asparagus before storing. It will stay fresher longer if you wait until you’re ready to use it to wash it.
  • Wrap stalks in a moist paper towel, position upright (cut-side down) in a water-tight container, then and add 1 to 2 inches of water. Cover with a loose plastic bag.
  • Stored properly, fresh asparagus will keep 3 to 4 days.

Prepping Asparagus

  • Remove the tough ends by cutting with a knife or snapping by hand; spears will naturally break where color fades to white.
  • To remove sand and dirt, submerge spears in a bowl of warm water and rinse well.
  • Most asparagus does not need to be peeled, but thick spears with tough skin may be the exception. Use a vegetable peeler to get to the more tender stalk underneath. Take care not to peel the tips.

How to Cook with Asparagus

  • Boiling: Trim ends and boil in salted water for 5 to 8 minutes. Take care not to overcook. Stalks should be crisp and tender.
  • Steaming: Steam asparagus upright using an asparagus steamer for 2 to 6 minutes, or cut into stalks into 3-inch diagonal pieces and place in a steaming basket for 2 to 8 minutes. Asparagus can also be steamed using a double boiler or percolator: tie spears together, stand upright with the tips 1 to 2 inches above boiling water and cook covered for 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Sautéing: Cut pieces diagonally into 2-inch pieces, place in a skillet with olive oil over medium heat and stir constantly for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Roasting: Pat stalks dry and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roll each stalk to evenly coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and place in an oven at 375 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Grilling: Prepare stalks in the same manner as roasting (see above), transfer from baking sheet to grill, positioning stalks perpendicular to grill grates, and flip every few minutes for even grilling. Asparagus is done when slightly browned and still crisp.
  • Microwaving: Place asparagus in a microwave-safe dish with 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes.

Key Measurements

  • Asparagus is usually measured in pounds, spears or cups when cut up.
  • Depending on their length and thickness, it takes between 10 and 15 spears to equal one cup.

Substitutions

  • Frozen asparagus, like Green Giant’s Asparagus Cuts in a “Simply Steam” bag, is good to have on hand when fresh isn’t available.
  • Some vegetablesthat can be used instead of asparagus are leeks, artichoke hearts, fiddle-head ferns, bamboo shoots, broccoli or okra.

Asparagus in Recipes

Related Recipes

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