Appreciating Asparagus

Sep 01, 2005

Back when my son was a toddler, he insisted that green, bumpy asparagus spears resembled Yoda of Star Wars fame. Me, I was just grateful that he would eat the green stuff.

Call it what you will, asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables you can buy, supplying a wide array of nutrients, including folic acid, fiber, potassium and vitamin B6. It is also low in sodium, contains less than 4 calories per spear and has no fat or cholesterol.

Selecting the Best Bunch. When it comes to finding the most tender spears, the younger the better, say the experts. Look for fat, bright green spears with firm, closed tips.

Storing the Spears. When you get your asparagus home, cut about a quarter inch off the ends and place the spears upright in a mug or flower vase, as you would a bouquet. Then refrigerate, and use within 2 or 3 days.

Preparing Asparagus. Cut off the white bottoms, then peel each spear starting just below the tip; steam in a small amount of boiling water until crisp tender, about 5–8 minutes. Or try microwaving asparagus in a covered baking dish with a quarter cup of water at full power for 4–7 minutes (remember to stir or turn midway through cooking).

Get Inventive. Cut spears diagonally in half-inch pieces and add to your favorite stir-fry recipe. Or try grilling asparagus: Rub a little olive oil on the spears and skewer several together to form a unique “raft” that can be flipped over during cooking.

Sources: Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board; California Asparagus Consumer Information.

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