Spring is here and so are the asparagus shoots. In our modern day quest to eat locally grown foods in season, asparagus is the vegetable to start with. The growing season is short, lasting 4-6 weeks, so indulge in theses robust delicacies while they are at their peak.
That said, I encourage you to take every opportunity to eat this delicious and highly nutritive vegetable. Asparagus are loaded with a bevy of vitamins like beta-carotene, vitamin C, as well as folate and fiber. They also contain the minerals, zinc and potassium, a diuretic that helps flush toxins from the body. Asparagus also has the naturally occurring anti-oxidant glutathione touted for lowering the risk for both cancer and heart disease.
I get a kick out of eating asparagus right out of the garden but I think they are also simply delicious when cooked simply. A few favorite ways to enhance the goodness are lightly steamed, pan sautéed, or oven roasted – butter and lemon always welcome. Many recipes suggest boiling them but I suspect that cooking method is the reason some people never want to try them again. It brings up an image of a soggy, stringy mush of a vegetable.
Whether you shop for the spears in the store, at the local farmer’s market or if you are lucky enough to grow them in your garden, keeping them crisp is key. Cut off the ends of the stem and wrap them in a cotton produce bag slightly moistened placed in the crisper section of your fridge. If they are especially schlumped over, place them vertically in a jar of water. This will perk them right up.
You can have asparagus all to yourselves if you want to grow them at home. Spring is the time to plant a row of asparagus crowns averaging about 10 plants per person. I am always amazed at the speedy growth of the spears as they shoot up in the garden. Asparagus are known to grow a valiant 7 inches a day while left unattended can peak at 15’ high! For best flavor, harvest the young spears when 6” tall, the tips tightly closed.
Enjoy the bounty!! Enjoy the spring!!