One of spring’s finest offerings is asparagus, power-packed spears of tenderness
As sure as chicks, bunnies and lambs, asparagus is a sign that spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner. Long prized by gourmets for its tender texture and buttery taste, asparagus can also be a mystery to those who have never enjoyed it fresh from the market. It is widely available now and well worth exploring.
While they often come bundled together, you can select only the stalks you want. Look for stalks that are rounded and not too fat, with firm, thin stems that aren’t too woody or dry. The fleshy buds at the top should be deep green or purplish with closed tips.
The most common type of asparagus is green, although white and purple varieties are also available. White asparagus is grown in shade or underground to inhibit its chlorophyll content; the purple variety grows only to 2-3 inches and has a fruitier flavor. Both white and purple also carry a higher price tag.
Asparagus is highly perishable and will wrinkle and harden if not stored correctly. Wrap the cut ends in damp paper or a cloth if you are refrigerating it, then use it within 48 hours.
Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, copper, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It is a great source of dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, potassium, choline, vitamin A, zinc, iron, protein, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid, and is a good source of magnesium and calcium.
Asparagus, like chicory root and Jerusalem artichokes, is an important source of the pre-biotic digestive support nutrient called inulin. It also has anti-inflammatory agents and contains high levels of the amino acid asparagines which serves as a natural diuretic.
If you’ve had a bad experience with asparagus in the past, it’s probably because it was over-cooked in boiling water. To make the most of this gentle vegetable, and to retain as much of the nutritional content of asparagus, use waterless, quick-cooking methods like roasting, grilling or stir frying. Also try adding a spear or two of chopped raw asparagus to salads for a touch of buttery crunch.
This article originally appeared on USAF FitFamily©, a publication of the U.S. Air Force. Republished with permission.