Friday, May 30, 2014

The Spears of Spring

Asparagus, related to lilies, is one of the early crops of spring.  Ancient Egyptians were known to cultivate asparagus as early as 3000 BC.  It's a great source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E, and K, and chromium.  Chromium is a trace mineral in the human diet that helps insulin work.

Asparagus will stay fresh in your crisper drawer for several days, often a week or more.  If you stand the spears up in a coffee cup with an inch of water, they can stay fresh even longer.  If the spears become limp or rubbery, they can be refreshed by rolling them up in a damp paper towel and leaving them sit for half an hour or so.

The thinner the spear, the more tender it will be.  The bottoms of asparagus spears tend to be more woody than the tips, and tougher to eat.  When preparing asparagus, hold it up by the cut end.  You'll see it bend at a point an inch or so up the spear.  Cut off the part that didn't bend and compost it; you'll be left with the yummy tender parts.

I love the combination of asparagus with citrus.  Generally, the spears are either steamed or roasted.  After steaming, a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of citrus, and you have a very fast and tasty side.  To roast, toss lightly in oil, salt and pepper the spears, and roast at about 425 for 10-12 minutes.

From that base, add complimentary flavors.  Thyme always pairs well with lemon, ginger with lime, or clove with orange.  For the non-vegetarians out there, bacon makes lots of things better, even asparagus at breakfast.  Pancetta does too.  Asparagus is also a classic addition to spring pasta dishes, like this one.

Happy spearing!

1 comment:

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE asparagus! I even have a small patch of it in my veggie garden. When you pick it out of your own backyard (or get it from a farmer's market where you know it's been picked in the last few hours), it is so tender, you can eat it raw (chopped, of course) in salads. I was hesitant to try that, but I'll never go back -- it is wonderful!
    My favorite garnish for sauteed or roasted asparagus is toasted sesame seeds (with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon, of course).