Many people see asparagus in the supermarket or farm market and pass by it without a glance. This is a mistake; asparagus is a super food, containing many vitamins, nutrients and minerals that our body needs to stay healthy. Asparagus has a long history going back as far as the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. These ancient societies quickly came to realize the health benefits of asparagus and embraced using it for healing many ills. Because asparagus grows in the spring, and is not available year round, it was seen as a delicacy. Asparagus comes in many different varieties; the 3 edible ones we are familiar with are green, white, and purple.
What makes asparagus a super food? It not only contains significant amounts of vitamins, nutrients and minerals, it has also been shown to aid in digestion, fight cancer, keep the heart healthy, aid in blood sugar distribution and is a very good anti inflammatory. Asparagus has also been shown to be a very good diuretic.
How to Choose and Store Asparagus
To ensure you are picking good quality asparagus you need to look for a few things before making your purchase. Make sure that you look for firm stalks, they should be straight and if bent they will crack or snap. You also want to look for round thin stems and a deep green or purple colored tip with closed ends. If you are checking the stalks and you notice them starting to wilt or with open tips and flowers you should not purchase them as they are old and no longer good to eat.
Fresh asparagus has a relatively short shelf life. After purchase be sure to wet a paper towel and wrap it around the stalks. This will help slow down the oxygenation process and help to prolong the shelf life. It is important to note that even with this step you should consume fresh asparagus within 48 hours of purchase.
The Proper Way to Prep Asparagus
It is actually very easy to prep asparagus for cooking. You need to trim about an inch to and inch and a half from each stem. You can use a knife or you can bend the stalks from the bottom and they will snap off at the point where the stems are more tender. If you like you can use a vegetable peeler to remove about 2 inches on the bottom of the stalks to make sure the are tender. This step is not necessary but some people prefer to do this.
How to Cook Asparagus
There are many different ways to prepare asparagus. You can choose from roasting, steaming, grilling, microwaving and simmering. Below simple directions for cooking using the method of your choice.
All you need is a pan large enough to lay the asparagus in a single layer, some olive oil and seasoning of your choice. Recipes vary as to the temperature of the oven, usually between 400 to 425 degrees; although cook times seem to be the same, between 12 to 15 minutes.
Some people prefer to sprinkle the olive oil over the asparagus after it is in the roasting pan and then sprinkle the seasonings over the stalks. Others prefer to place the asparagus in a bowl, pour the oil over the stalks and add the seasonings. Once everything is in the bowl toss the asparagus to evenly coat each piece and then place them in the roasting pan.
Another quick way to prepare your asparagus is steaming. You will need a steamer set, but if you don’t have one you can still use the steam method by using a large pan and a steamer basket. Fill the bottom of the steamer set (or large pan) with about 3 cups of water and a little salt. Once the water is boiling place the asparagus in the top of the steamer set (or the steamer basket.) Steam between 5 and 10 minutes. The length of time depends on how round the stalks are. Remove and serve once the stalks have a nice green color and are still slightly firm. You can season as you like after cooking.
If grilling is your thing you will enjoy how easy it is to grill asparagus. Preheat the grill so it is nice and hot. Place the asparagus on a plate, drizzle olive oil over them and add your seasonings. Turn the asparagus to ensure each piece is evenly coated and place them on the grill. Be careful because oil may drip and cause the flames to rise. You can use a spray bottle of water to spray on the coals when this happens. Be sure to turn you asparagus about a quarter turn each minute. This will keep the asparagus from charring. Cook for about 5 minutes then serve right away.
If you decide you would like to cook your asparagus in the microwave you can still achieve great taste. As with roasting there are 2 different methods to microwave asparagus. The first method tells you to get 4 paper towels (keep them together, do not separate.) Using a 1/4 cup of water dampen the paper towels. You can use a spray bottle to dampen the towels if you like. Place the asparagus near the end of the towels being sure that none of the stalk or tip are outside of the paper towel. Lightly season and then roll the paper towels up, making sure to keep the asparagus together. Place the roll, seam side down, on a microwaveable safe plate and cook for 3 – 5 minutes.
The second method is to place the asparagus in a microwave safe dish. Pour 1/4 cup of water, orange juice or wine over the asparagus. Cover dish and microwave from 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful when removing the cover so that you don’t get a steam burn.
One more method to consider is to simmer your asparagus. Lay the asparagus in a pan and cover with water. Bring the water to a simmer and then cover the pan. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from pan and season to taste. If you don’t want to use water, pick a liquid of your choice to obtain the flavor you want.
Asparagus is a super food , it helps your body stay healthy in many ways. It is quick to prepare and cook in the method you prefer most. Next time you see a bunch of asparagus pick one up instead of passing it by. You might just be pleasantly surprised with the flavor.