Why We Love Asparagus
Asparagus is a good source of folate, which is vitally important for fetal development. It has been shown to potentially prevent cognitive decline, bestowing it with anti-aging properties! Asparagus is packed with antioxidants, which neutralize cell-damaging free radicals – another reason why it’s a great anti-aging food. These winter stalks are a very good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, and contain chromium, a trace mineral that assists insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells, helpful for those managing blood sugars. Asparagus contains high amounts of asparagine, which assists the body in getting rid of excess fluids, salts, which is especially helpful for people with edema, high blood pressure, and other heart-related diseases.
How to Shop for Asparagus
Buy asparagus when in season to get the most nutrient dense and flavorful option. Asparagus stalks raised in the United States are available from January through April. Imported asparagus may be found at other times of the year.
When you’re at the farmers’ market or grocery store, look for asparagus stalks that are straight, firm and have tightly closed dark green or purple tips that will indicate their freshness. Avoid those that are limp, bent, or whose tips are starting to separate. If you have been to the farmers’ market when asparagus is in season, you will see how large in diameter these veggies can get! However, the diameter of the stalks does not necessarily correlate to their taste. You will want to choose stalks that are the same size so that they will cook uniformly (otherwise some will be over or under-cooked). Also, look for stalks whose ends are smooth and moist, and avoid cut ends that are dry.
Have you ever seen the rare white variety of asparagus? Don’t worry you are likely not missing out on much – Green asparagus has seven times more antioxidants than these sun deprived white counterparts, which have a mild flavor, is a bit more tender, and tends to cost a bit more.
When it comes to pesticide concerns, according to EWG’s Dirty Dozen lists, asparagus ranks #45 for highest levels of pesticide residues.
How to Store Asparagus
The best words of advice for asparagus, is to eat the stalks immediately – don’t store them! Asparagus loses its flavor and nutrients rapidly. Eat this vegetable within two to three days from point of purchase. To keep stalks fresh and retain the most nutrients in storage, keep in the refrigerator, stored in a crisper drawer with the tips wrapped in a moist paper towel.
Fresh asparagus can also be frozen and stored up to 6 months. Select tender spears, trim and cut into uniform pieces. Blanch asparagus, seal and freeze.
How to Prepare Asparagus
The white area at the end of asparagus tips is tough and should be discarded prior to cooking. Asparagus can be enjoyed in all sorts of ways – raw in salads, cooked, and if your really adventurous even juiced!
Juice: You might be surprised, but experimenting beyond your classic green juice can be fun and provide an excellent taste! Wash asparagus well then add through juicer chute with other ingredients like this recipe.
Blended: Add cooked or raw asparagus to your blender for hummus as an afternoon snack-dip or sandwich spread.
Raw: Fresh, raw asparagus can be a beautiful addition to a winter salad or to serve with a side of mustard or vinegar and olive oil.
Cooked: Steaming is the preferred method, but sautéing your asparagus is another great way to enjoy this cooked veggie. Serve as a side, add to a quinoa salad, or toss with zucchini and broccoli for an easy vegetable salad.
Cooked, Raw, or Frozen? How to Get the Most out of Asparagus
Cooked asparagus has been shown to be far more nutritious than raw. The recommended method for cooking is to steam asparagus, which will increase the antioxidants by thirty percent. However, raw consumption can also be beneficial by incorporating asparagus in a variety of ways listed above. You can get the most nutrients from asparagus simply by consuming their stalks as soon as you bring them home!
So no matter the form required, asparagus is a wonderful addition to your snacks, juices, and meals!