Asparagus A-Z: Everything you ever wanted to know about asparagus and more, in 26 bites

Spring has sprung and asparagus spears are sprouting. Because it’s one of my very favorite vegetables, and because it epitomizes seasonality, asparagus stars as my Veggie of the Month for April. Check out my alphabetical list of how and why to enjoy asparagus.

Asparagus

A: Antioxidants: Loaded with vitamins A, C, and E as well as other powerful antioxidants, asparagus acts as a veggie super hero, fighting to neutralize cell-damaging, villainous free radicals in our body. A diet that includes five–eight servings of anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables (like asparagus) helps to keep the bad guys from wreaking havoc and causing nasty diseases like cancer.

B: Beauty: The slender stalks of this herbaceous perennial plant are something to behold. And eating asparagus makes you beautiful – its Vitamin C and E nourish the skin and boost collagen production.

C: Colorful: Did you know that asparagus comes in the familiar spring green, as well as white and purple? Chlorophyll makes green asparagus green; white asparagus is simply green asparagus grown in the absence of light, thus no chlorophyll; and purple asparagus gets its lovely hue due to the presence of anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants that may help prevent cancer and cardio-vascular disease. 

Purple asparagus spears

D: Dipper: Trim spears as shown in this short video, steam or blanch until tender but still firm and use for dipping. Asparagus is especially delicious dipped into soft-boiled eggs with their tops cut off, or as a naturally gluten free dipper for hummus and guacamole.

E: Eggs: Asparagus and eggs are a natural fit. Marry asparagus with fluffy eggs in omelets (see W for Woody Stem), or top crisp-tender, cooked asparagus spears with a poached or fried egg.

F: Folate: Asparagus is one of the best sources of naturally occurring folate, which helps prevent birth defects and also promotes production of healthy red blood cells.

G: Grilled: Grilled asparagus is easy and delicious. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook on a hot grill until tender.

H: Highfalutin: Feelin’ fancy? Pour yourself a glass of sparkling wine (see U for Unique), steam some spears and wrap ‘em with smoked salmon. Serve with a honey Dijon dipping sauce. Ooh la la.

I: Ice: What does ice have to do with asparagus? Well, steam your asparagus, then immediately dunk into a bath of ice water to halt the cooking. This extra step provides perfectly crisp tender stalks that retain their vibrant green color.

J: Jonquils: Asparagus and jonquils are both eagerly awaited signs of spring and both sorely missed once the weather heats up. But that’s the bittersweet beauty of eating seasonally. Not only does locally grown, seasonal food taste better, asparagus grown by a farmer in your own region uses fewer precious natural resources to get to your table. Unless you live in Peru, you’re likely not meant to eat asparagus in winter.

Jonquil

K: Vitamin K: One cup of cooked asparagus delivers 101% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a starring role in blood clotting, and is also helps builds strong bones and assists in preventing heart disease.

L: Libido: Not only is asparagus suggestive to look at, its high folate levels aid in the production of histamine which is important for a healthy sex drive in both men and women. Cook the spears whole, pick them up with your fingers, dip in Parmesan lemon butter, and lick your fingers. Sexy.

M: Mediterranean; Asparagus was first cultivated in the Eastern Mediterranean region more than 2000 years ago! Those ancient Greeks and Romans had good taste. No wonder asparagus goes so well with the sunny flavors of the Mediterranean – think lemons, oranges, pine nuts, and olives to name a few favorites.

N: Nation; China is by far the nation that produces the most asparagus. Do you live in China? If not, think local and seasonal. Just imagine the carbon footprint.

O: Organic; While it’s always best to buy organic whenever possible, asparagus is on the Environmental Working Group’s most recent Clean Fifteen list, which is a list of produce grown using the least amount of pesticides. So if you have an organic source of asparagus, lucky you. If you don’t, don’t worry. Enjoy anyway.

P: Pee: Yes, asparagus might make your pee stink. That’s because it contains a chemical called asparagusic acid, which is broken down by our bodies into sulphuric compounds during digestion. Sulphur is smelly, so that’s why your pee might smell. To further the mystery, asparagus apparently makes some folks’ urine smell, but not everyone’s. And even weirder, it’s claimed that some asparagus eaters’ urine does indeed smell, but they just can’t smell the offending odor! Crazy.

Q: Quick: Be quick about it. Asparagus is best eaten fresh. Another reason to eat local and seasonal.

R: Roast: One of the easiest and tastiest ways to cook asparagus is to roast it. See my tasty recipe for roasted asparagus here

Roasted Asparagus

S: Storage: Asparagus has a high respiration rate, which makes it susceptible to drying out, shriveling and wrinkling. (Sound familiar?) To help slow this unpleasant process, store asparagus with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel, or standing up in an inch or two of water like flowers in a vase.

Asparagus Bouquet

T: Trimming the ends: The easiest way to trim the tough ends at the appropriate place is to pick up each spear individual, and give it a snap. The spear will break at the magic place and you’ll be left with the tender edible part and the woody end, which can be discarded or peeled and used in soup or omelets.

U: Unique: Asparagus is fun and funky. It grows out straight up out of the ground and has a unique flavor – fresh and grassy. This vegetal taste that makes asparagus such a seasonal treat can make pairing it with wine quite tricky. What’s a connoisseur to do? Do what I do with all wine-unfriendly foods and pour a glass of bubbles!

V: Velvety: Asparagus can be turned into a rich and velvety soup. Sautee some shallots and garlic in olive oil, toss in one bunch of asparagus, trimmed (see T for Trimming) and chopped, add veggie broth and cook until asparagus is tender. Cool slightly and puree, then stir in your favorite milk (non-dairy or otherwise) and a handful of chopped fresh herbs – dill is nice. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

W: Woody stem: When you trim the tough ends of the stems (see T for Trimming) don’t toss them in the compost. Peel them with a vegetable peeler and use to make soup or slice and toss them into an omelet.

X: Xeriscaping: My loose definition of xeriscaping is gardening or landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for water by irrigation. If you live in an area that gets a fair amount of rain, it’s possible to xeriscape with asparagus. The plant is a perennial, will grow wild and can get by without extensive watering.

Y: Yes: Just say yes when offered a second helping of asparagus. One cup of cooked asparagus has around 40 calories. Maybe hold the second helping of hollandaise.

Z: Ziti: Asparagus goes great with ziti, or any pasta for that matter. Think light and springy: lemon, olive oil, maybe a little ricotta or Parmesan and a toss of toasted pine nuts.

This article published by Elephant Journal: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/04/asparagus-a-z-everything-you-need-to-know-about-asparagus-in-26-bites/

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