You know I am a big fan of eating seasonally and since April brings in the peak season for asparagus, I am excited to bring them to my table this month with a few old AND new recipes. After reading these FUN facts about asparagus, I hope you'll also have more FUN with them this month.
- Get 'em now! Pick the ones that are firm and bright green with closed, firm (no mushy!) purple or dark green tips. When mature, asparagus are thicker which can be more tender, especially early in peak season - i.e. NOW! (http://news.psu.edu/story/186083/2000/03/27/skinny-asparagus-thicker-means-more-tender)
- Try something new! Although green is the most common color for asparagus, there is a more delicate white variety as well as a sweeter (higher sugar content) purple variety.
- Although I am generally an advocate for organically grown anything, asparagus is on the Environmental Working Group's "Clean 15" list of fruits and vegetables that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/) which is great news if you don't have access to organics.
- Make it for date night! Asparagus is one of the most famous foods known as an aphrodisiac. This is partly because of its shape (!) and partly because of the nutrient content that leads to increased energy and reduced fatigue (http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/10-edible-aphrodisiacs/).
- Keep 'em moist! Asparagus are more perishable than many of their vegetable peers so eat them within 24-48 hours of purchasing. To best preserve them, keep them moist by trimming the ends and, a) standing them on the ends in water or, b) wrapping the ends in a damp cloth or paper towel, before storing in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic. You may have to use a peeler on very stalky, tough stems.
- That smell? One last thing...I bet you are wondering about that famous (or infamous) smell. You know, the one that everyone says can invade your pee when you eat asparagus? Well, it turns out that researchers still are not sure what exactly causes the odor (they have identified at least 21 potential sources!); as a result, they are not sure how many people actually CAN produce the odor. What clouds the issue even further is that many people do not have the ability to perceive the odor (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140818-mystery-of-asparagus-and-urine). Either way, it does not affect asparagus' vegetable health benefits. Packed with nutrients such as folate and B vitamins, asparagus has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant (therefore anti-cancer!) benefits, supports your digestion (it's a prebiotic!), heart health, and regulation of blood sugar levels.
How to prepare? Of course, you can eat 'em raw and toss them into salads, pastas, casseroles, omelettes but here are some cooking preparation options too...
- Grill them over medium heat and add olive oil and lemon. Chopping? Do it after cooking.
- Roast them (400 - 500) with olive oil, lemon (slices or juice), mustard, balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika or chili powder, and/or parmesan cheese (add just before done). (Wrap them with smoked salmon or prosciutto for a tasty vegetablarian treat! -http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/asparagus-and-smoked-salmon-bundles-recipe.html)
- Pan saute with 1/4-1/2 cup of water and lemon or broth.
Season to taste - just try to avoid the salt so that you get the natural diuretic effects. Here are a couple links to my favorite recipes: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/lemon_lovers_asparagus.html, http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/asparagus_baby_kale_caesar_salad.html
I hope you are now as excited about asparagus season as I am! How will you be bringing it to your table this month?