Awesome Asparagus


Spring is the best time for this glorious vegetable.

By FamilyTime

 

Asparagus is a harbinger of spring. We may eat it all year long, but it's at its best now, when its herbaceous flavor and bright green color nearly shout "springtime!"

Asparagus can be green or white. The green is the most common and what most Americans eat.

The white stalked asparagus is more expensive; it is grown beneath the ground and must be harvested before dawn to protect the stalks from the light. If exposed to daylight, the ivory-colored stalks become tinged with a delicate violet color. When fully exposed to light, the stalks turn green.

Both the white and violet varieties are seen frequently in European markets but the green stems are those most readily available in the U.S. The peak of the season for green-stemmed asparagus is from late March through June.

Buying and Storing
When you buy asparagus, keep in mind that a pound equals about three servings. If you have a houseful of asparagus lovers, figure on a pound for every two servings.

Look for straight, firm spears and compact, tightly closed tips. Thick stems have the best flavor and will remain tender after cooking, although many folks prefer the crisper thin stems.

Some cooks buy thick stems for soups and vegetable mélanges, and reserve the skinny stalks for quick cooking.

Asparagus is highly perishable and its flavor deteriorates rapidly. Try to serve it on the day you buy it. If not, wrap it in damp paper towels and enclose it in a plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible.

Wash the asparagus carefully in a bowl of cold water to remove any traces of sand. Break off the ends before cooking. These snap off naturally when you bend the stalk. No need to use a knife. Discard or reserve the ends to flavor soup.

Cooking Asparagus

Asparagus can be steamed, microwaved, grilled or roasted. If steaming, stand the stalks upright in deep pot, if you can. With the tips exposed, steam for about five minutes, depending on how thick the stalks are.

Asparagus cook in minutes in the microwave, but the time will be determined by the thickness of the stalks.

If you grill or roast the vegetable, watch it carefully. It’s delicious drizzled with a little olive oil before grilling or roasting and again, the size of the stalk will determine the time. As a rule, allow ten to 15 minutes.

Overcooking results in a dismal, limp, dull-looking vegetable that will lose its color, flavor and nutrients.

If steamed asparagus is to be served cold or at room temperature, drain it in a colander and rinse it under cold running water. This will stop the cooking process and immediately brighten the color.

Grilled or roasted asparagus can be served warm or room temperature. Enjoy the flavors of spring!