Put Some Spring in your Step with Asparagus!

Asparagus is one of those controversial vegetables that people either love or hate. Nutrient dense, a half cup of cooked asparagus has just 20 calories, 2.2 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrate and 1.8 grams of fiber. Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, the vegetable is relatively free from fat and sodium. It would be a disservice not to mention the unpleasant odor sometimes detected after eating asparagus. This is simply related to the breakdown of an acidic compound found in asparagus that is high in sulfur. This smell is harmless and leaves the system as quickly as it comes.

Asparagus comes in different varieties, each with its own unique characteristics: 

  • Green Asparagus is the most common variety. It has a grassy, sweet, and slightly bitter taste that makes it incredibly versatile. 
  • White Asparagus is grown underground, which prevents it from turning green and gives it a milder, nuttier flavor. It is very popular in Europe and tends to be expensive. 
  • Purple Asparagus is slightly sweeter and more tender than other varieties due to a lower fiber content. The vibrant purple color comes from its high anthocyanin content and makes it a beautiful addition to salads.

When selecting fresh asparagus, choose stalks that have a tightly closed bud. Stalks should be rich in color, stand firm, and appear straight and plump. One pound of asparagus usually has between 18-24 spears, about 4 servings. 

Fresh asparagus can dry out quickly. In not using right away, keep asparagus bundled in a rubber band, trim an inch off the bottom of the stalks and wrap the ends in a moist paper towel. Ideally stalks should be stored in the refrigerator, standing up in a container with a small amount of water (about 1 inch deep). 

Asparagus is a versatile veggie and super easy to prepare. Wash asparagus just before using. Remove the tough ends either by snapping them off or by cutting the spears with a knife. 

Once trimmed, the asparagus is ready to be grilled, roasted, sautéed, steamed, or boiled.

  • When choosing a cooking method, consider the thickness of the stalks. Thin asparagus is great for quick cooking methods like sautéing, while thick stalks are better for grilling or roasting. 
  • To roast asparagus, toss with garlic, parmesan, and lemony breadcrumbs and spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 450°F for 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness, or cook until tender.
  • To sauté asparagus, heat a little oil or butter in a pan, add whole asparagus spears and sauté 3-4 minutes. Or, cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces for stir-fries and cook for 3 minutes.
  • To steam asparagus, lay spears in a steamer basket, cover, and steam for 5-8 minutes. You can also tie in a bunch, stand upright in a pot of boiling water, cover and steam. The bottom will boil but the tips will steam.
  • To grill asparagus, toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then grill for 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat. Place the asparagus directly on the grill, wrap in foil, use a grill mat or vegetable basket. 
  • Or enjoy asparagus raw. Peel or thinly slice fresh asparagus and add to salads or serve whole spears with your favorite dip. 
  • This Asparagus Rice Bowl is a Spring recipe bursting with fresh vegetables and herbs. Known as “risotto” in Italy, this light dish uses Arborio rice, which has a firmer, chewier texture than traditional white rice. Pair this healthy rice dish with a simple tossed salad for a tasty dinner. 
  • Try this easy Creamy Asparagus Soup recipe that has less than 100 calories per serving. For a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. 

There are so many ways to enjoy asparagus, so please indulge in this “little green giant.” Don’t let asparagus pass you by this spring!  

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