Asparagus, a member of the lily family, is available from April to early June. It is fat and sodium-free, with about 35 calories per cup. This nutrient rich food is filled with folate; vitamins A, C, and K; potassium; and iron. These nutrients are shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. White asparagus is grown out of the sun and contains fewer nutrients than green, while purple asparagus contains additional anti-oxidants.
To select the best asparagus – look for straight and firm stalks. Avoid wilted or limp stalks. Selecting stalks that are uniform in size will assist with cooking. Asparagus is easily perishable, for optimum quality keep at 40 degrees or below and use within one to two days. Wash with cold water only before using, to prevent bacterial growth.
To steam: bring an inch of water to a boil, insert rinsed stalks, and cover pan. Stalks will be done in 2 to 5 minutes – based on thickness of stalks.
To microwave: rinse stalks and place on microwave safe plate with about 2 tablespoons of water, cover and microwave 2 to 3 minutes – until done.
To roast: preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rinsed stalks on foil-lined sheet. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes until tender-crisp. Parmesan cheese is also a tasty option on roasted stalks.
To grill: place stalks on grilling skewers or grill griddle, brush lightly with olive oil, grill 2 to 5 minutes – turning once.
To freeze asparagus for future use: sort stalks to similar size; blanch by placing in boiling water for 90 seconds – small stalks, 2 minutes for medium stalks, and 3 minutes for larger stalks; cool immediately in ice water; pat dry and place in freezer bags. Stalks may be left whole or cut into 2 inch sections before starting the blanching process.
Seasoning options for asparagus include soy sauce, sesame oil or seeds, lemon juice, parsley, or vinaigrette dressing.
Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reviewer: Cindy Shuster, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.
Utah University Cooperative Extension, https://extension.usu.edu/admin/files/uploads/Viva%20Vegetables%20Asparagus%20Recipes.pdf.
Ohioline, Ohio State University Extension, B. Brahm, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5508.pdf.
Washington State University Extension, http://county.wsu.edu/chelan-douglas/health/Documents/Asparagus%20Information%20and%20Springtime%20Warnings.pdf.
Photo credit: Gerald Holmes, Valent USA Corporation, Bugwood.org.