Asparagus is more expensive compared to other vegetables. Simply because it’s harvested by hand. A part of the lily family, which includes: onions, garlic, and leaks. Asparagus has a bud-like, compact and pointed head with a spear tip. Likewise, there are several, almost a hundred, varieties of asparagus. Though, only a few are actually edible. It’s a vegetable that’s available all year round, but is abundant during spring and could be harvested when it’s around 6-8 inches tall. The variety of asparagus that’s edible is usually greenish in color. There’s also a white variety and it’s generally grown underground, a way to preserve its flavor. Similarly, these sunlight-deprived stalks lack the goodness of chlorophyll.
Selection and Storage
Proper Selection of Asparagus
Since asparagus is a yearly classic spring treat, the taste of fresh asparagus is superb when cooked properly. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to select and purchase the ideal asparagus.
- Always select the bright green asparagus that has compact, closed, and firm tips.
- The cut ends shouldn’t be dry.
- Opt for asparagus stalks that have the same thickness. This way, cooking would be uniformed.
- Thickness doesn’t always show quality.
- In case that the points are slightly wilted, you could freshen them up by soaking the stems in cold water.
1) Asparagus is usually sold in bundles, tied with a rubber band. Never let this pre-determined packaging intimidate your selection choice. Don’t hesitate, and politely ask the service clerk to undo the bundle and allow you to make your own bundle, one that will suit your needs.
2) There are two different sizes that are generally available in stores: very thin and very thick.
- Thin Asparagus- Sprouted from younger root stocks. This type cooks faster but is actually tougher compared to thicker spears.
- Thicker Asparagus- it contains more nutrients and fiber. Not just that, it’s also versatile in the kitchen, giving you a chance to have a wider choice of preparation methods.
Storing/ Preserving Fresh Asparagus
Asparagus is mostly water. Therefore, when left out on the counter, it’ll dry quickly and lose the texture and flavor.
- With a sharp knife, in a one clean movement, chop about a half inch off the bottom of the spears. No need to remove them in the bundle.
- Get a jar, glass, or even a coffee cup and fill it with about 1/3 inches of water. Then, place the bundle, fresh-cut side down. You can use any container, but make sure it can hold the needed amount of water, and it has tall vertical sides to support the stalks.
- Leave the container in a cool location and away from sunlight.
- It’s recommended to keep it in the coldest spot on your fridge, but not more than 24 hours before using it.
You can store your fresh asparagus in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Wrap the bundle of fresh asparagus in a damp paper towel.
- Put them in a plastic vegetable bag and store in the vegetable crisper.
This will last for a day or two. Though, method 1 is more preferable.
Freezing. Blanch the asparagus spears and put it in a freezer. Though, this method is not ideal for the raw food lifestyle.
Dehydration. This will result in a crispy and brittle stem; and a simple marinade should be used to heighten the flavors. Also, this is the most efficient way of preserving asparagus without the use of heat to dehydrate it. This will give you several options to enjoy this beautiful veggie all year round. You could crumble it on any type of salad for a crunchy and healthy topping.
- Fresh Asparagus- This must be kept refrigerated at all times. Just wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends and refrigerate it. Keep it moist until you intend to use it.
- Frozen Asparagus- This should be kept in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. No need to defrost before cooking. However, if it accidentally defrosts, it must be cooked right away. NEVER refreeze it and make sure to use it within 8 months.
- Canned Asparagus- This should be stored in a cool dry place.
There are basically 2 general ways on how to prep asparagus for cooking (cutting and snapping), though another method could be used.
1) Cutting – Slicing all from the bottom of the spears while they’re still bundled.
- Hold a spear with one hand, about midway on the spear; while the other hand, the bottom part.
- Bend the spear until it “snaps.”
- The spear will naturally break between the tough woody part and the more edible portion.
- Discard the woody ends, or you could freeze them and use for vegetable stock.
- Hold each spear, midway.
- With a pairing knife or a vegetable peeler, shave the green covering of the lower section of the spear until the yellow-whitish flesh appears.
This method works best on thick spears.
Ways to Cook Asparagus
- Preheat the oven to 450 F.
- On a baking sheet, place asparagus and drizzle it with 1 tbsp. of olive oil.
- Toss lightly to coat the stalks with oil.
- Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste (optional).
- Roast for 15 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Don’t cover it.
- During roasting, lightly toss it twice.
- Season with herbs and lemon (optional).
- Fill up the saucepan with water– just below the steamer basket you’re going to use.
- Place a steamer basket over the saucepan and bring water to boil.
- Place the asparagus in the steamer basket.
- Cover the steamer and reduce the heat.
- Steam for 3-5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
- In a large frying pan with 1 inch of water, place the asparagus spears.
- Lightly salt the water (for added flavor) and bring to simmer.
- Cover the skillet and cook it for 3-5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
- Generously brush the asparagus with melted butter, margarine, or olive oil. This will keep the spears from sticking to the grill.
For Charcoal Grill – It’s recommended to just place the stalks directly.
- Grill for 7-10 minutes or until crisp-tender, with occasional turning.
For Gas Grill
- Preheat the grill, then reduce heat to medium.
- Place the asparagus directly over heat.
- Grill for 7-10 minutes or until crisp-tender, with occasional turning.
- Place your asparagus in a microwave-safe casserole or baking dish with 2 tbsp. of water.
- Microwave with 100 power (high) for about 2-4 minutes.
- Boil the asparagus until crisp-tender.
- Stock in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The result, a perfectly cooked, but cold asparagus.
- If you’re planning to serve it warm right away without shocking, place the asparagus in a shallow baking dish.
- Cover it with 2 cups of boiling salted water.
- Leave for 10-12 minutes.
- Drain and serve warm.
- Slice the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces.
- Heat some butter or olive oil in a frying pan.
- Place the asparagus and cook over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes.
For some, eating asparagus leads to a strong smelling urine generally known as “asparagus urine” or “asparagus pee.” The reason behind is, asparagus is made up of a sulfur compound that when absorbed by the body, it releases an odor. Nevertheless, the strong smelling urine is not something that one should be alarmed of, since it goes away quickly.
- Reduces the risk of diabetes – According to the British Journal of Nutrition, a research conducted at the Karachi University in Pakistan discovered that eating asparagus could help in treating type 2 diabetes. Asparagus exerts anti-diabetic effects by improving the b-cell function, insulin secretion, and anti-oxidant status.
- Acts as a diuretic and prevents kidney stones – An article titled, “Chemical constituents of asparagus” pointed out that this vegetable helps in the prevention of kidney stones as it flushes them out before they were even formed. Moreover, it’s an anti-inflammatory that helps in minimizing the pain of arthritis, as well as water retention related with PMS.
- Reduces the risk of neural tube defects in infants – Asparagus contains almost half a person’s recommended regular intake of foliate and it prevents neural tube defects in babies. To support this fact, according to KidsHealth.org, women who receive 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) regularly, prior to conception and whilst pregnancy, could reduce the risk of giving birth to a baby with a neural tube defect, a chronic birth defect involving incomplete development of the spinal cord and brain by up to 70%.
- Cleanses the blood – Asparagus is an alkaline food. Thus, eating asparagus could lessen high acid in tissues and purifies the blood.
- Eye health – Thanks to a powerful antioxidant gluthatione found in asparagus. It nourishes the eyes and it could prevent or slow down the possible progression of cataracts.
- Digestive health – The high fiber content of asparagus enables a healthy digestive tract. Thus, it could lessen the occurrences of diarrhea and constipation.
- Depression – The vitamins found in asparagus could instantly lift up the person’s mood. For some, asparagus acts as a comfort food and aphrodisiac.
- Healthy Heart – The presence of foliate, vitamin K, and antioxidant merged together, makes asparagus good for the heart.