Asparagus is one of the first vegetables to be harvested each spring. Known for its long green stem and feathery top, asparagus pops out of the ground right around the same time as the first spring flowers. One of the few green perennials we eat, asparagus is at its best when other vegetables are barely more than seeds.
Asparagus is an excellent source of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, selenium, chromium, magnesium, and zinc. It is also a rich source of dietary fiber and protein.
Asparagus is best eaten at the peak of freshness. If you grow your own, wait to harvest until just before you’re ready to cook it. If you’re buying them, try to find a local source, such as a farmers’ market or food co-op. If you plan to keep asparagus for longer than a day or two, store it like a bouquet of flowers, trimming a 1/4″ or so from the base of each stalk and placing them in glass with about an inch of water at the bottom. This will help the stalks to retain their crispness until you’re ready to cook them, and prevent them from becoming tough and “woody.”
Cook asparagus only until it becomes tender, removing it before it begins to lose its bright green color. The smallest spears only need to be sautéed for a few minutes. Larger spears are best if boiled in salt water for about five minutes.
Bring spring to your table with these appetizing asparagus recipes:
Simple Sautéed Asparagus
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 bunch fresh asparagus
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Melt the butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and asparagus spears; cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until asparagus is tender. Finish with lemon if desired.
1 pound fresh asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the grill to high heat. Lightly coat the asparagus spears with olive oil. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender. Season with salt and pepper, or your favorite herbs, to taste.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
1 pound fresh asparagus
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Set a few asparagus spears aside for garnish. Place remaining vegetable mixture in an electric blender and purée until smooth. In the same pan that was used to simmer the asparagus, melt butter. Sprinkle flour, salt, and pepper into the butter, stirring continuously for approximately two minutes. Remove before the flour browns. Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir the vegetable purée and milk into the saucepan. Whisk yogurt into the mixture, followed by lemon juice. Stir until heated through. Ladle into bowls and garnish with asparagus stalks.
Thanking about growing your own asparagus? Check out these tips to get started!