Slim green spears popping up as spring sets in, asparagus is a vegetable that derived its name from the Persian word asparag meaning sprout. Asparagus belongs to the lily family. Europeans use asparagus (white) extensively. Asparagus has small leaves near the tip that appear like tightly packed scales. Asparagus is famous as a cooking choice as it has a mild flavor and is crunchy. In the United States the green variety is quite popular.
Asparagus - (the Latin name is Asparagus Officinalis) is green in color, a variety named viola is purple in color. A variety of asparagus is grown underground so that it remains white and does not turn green. The color of the plant is determined by the amount of sunlight it is exposed to. The size and age of the asparagus depends upon the thickness of its stem, the thicker the flesh the older the plant is. The white and green varieties are harvested when the stalks are 8 inches high and ¼ - ½ inch thick. Asparagus is harvested by hand. The best growing season is between February and August.
Asparagus can be grilled, sautéed, boiled, steamed, pickled or served cold. It is a great appetizer and can be pureed for use in soup and soufflés. It is also a great accompaniment for soups, salads, etc.
Pick asparagus that has firm and bright green stalks. The head must be compact. Select those where the spears have tight closed leaves. The tips must be purplish with firm stalks. Avoid dry limp and wrinkled stalks and opened buds. You can peel the skin if it appears too thick. The white stalk is often tasteless. Cook the asparagus quickly to prevent the drab olive color. Add salt while cooking in water to reduce loss of moisture from the asparagus.
Asparagus is a dieter's delight, being just 20 calories for about 100 gm. Potassium, so ideal for reducing belly fat is found in asparagus. Being a rich source of antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, carotene and crypto-xanthins, asparagus works wonders at fighting viral infections and neuro-degenerative problems. Harness the power of Vitamin K abundantly found in asparagus. It helps limit neural damage in the brain and has been found useful in treating Alzheimer's disease.
The folate in asparagus is especially beneficial to women, more so for pregnant women. It also helps in reducing the risk of heart disease as it helps reduce inflammation. Asparagus was considered as an Aphrodisiac in the medieval period. It is hard to find corroborative evidence to attribute this aphrodisiacal benefit to asparagus. Most of the data we found were anecdotal in nature. Be that as it may, folate rich Asparagus is a heathy food anyway.
Wrap-in bacon asparagus
Asparagus 1 pound
Bacon 8-10 strips
Wash and trim the spears of asparagus. Cut bacon strips cross into half. Wrap the bacon strip around the asparagus; ensure the tips are left free. Spread on a cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven. Serve warm.
Asparagus 1 pound, trimmed and peeled
Extra-virgin olive oil 3 tbsp
Salt and black pepper to taste
Toss the asparagus with the oil, pepper and salt. Place over a preheated grill and cook. Turn it occasionally to ensure even cooking on all sides. Transfer to serving plate, drizzle with olive oil and lemon. Serve immediately.
Asparagus pasta salad
Asparagus 1 ½ cups, chopped
Pasta 1 cup, uncooked
Carrots ½ cup, sliced thin
Red bell pepper ¼ cup, diced
Red onion ½ cup, diced
Italian dressing ¾ cup
Oregano leaves 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water. Drain water and transfer pasta to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Toss well to coat, season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Fresh asparagus 1 pound
Vegetable broth 1 ¼ cup plus another ½ cup
Onion ¾ cup, chopped
Parmesan cheese ¼ cup, grated
Soy milk 1 cup
Yogurt ½ cup
Lemon juice 1 tsp
All purpose flour 2 tbsp
Butter 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Take the ½ cup vegetable broth in a saucepan and add onion and asparagus to it. Bring the broth to boil, simmer until the vegetables are tender. Remove a few asparagus for garnishing. Blend the rest till smooth.
In another pan, melt butter and sprinkle the flour, salt and pepper into it. Let the mixture cook for about 2 minutes. Add the 1 ½ cup vegetable broth while increasing the heat, keep stirring until the mixture begins to boil. Stir in the vegetable puree and milk, and keep stirring. Add the yogurt and later the lemon juice. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with asparagus and sprinkle the parmesan cheese, serve.
Asparagus cooking tips