Spring has sprung my friends. No, really! Don't let the crazy cold snaps fool you. I know the season is upon us, because...... ASPARAGUS.
Now that slimy canned mess of my childhood yuck days? No, my friend, the real deal. Farm-fresh, picked the day of purchase, proud little spears that broke through the soil only days before it ended upon my plate. Or salad. Or soup. Or even pizza. WHEREVER. Wherever I can find a place for it.
I'll eat bundles of it before the end of its short, sweet season. Do yourself a favor. Pass over the bundled bunch, grown and transported en masse to your local supermarket, likely weeks from its original harvest date. Hunt down, instead, a local farmer, like Willie McKemie, at your local farmers market, and get yourself some field-fresh asparagus STAT. Mr. McKemie of McKemie HomeGrown in Dale, Texas, is the farmer from whom I procured the beautiful batch of purple spears, pictured above, as well as the bright green bunch with which I recently made this Springtime Salad of Asparagus, Strawberry and Radish at the Texas Farmers Markets.
Asparagus, its fleshy spears topped with bud-like compact heads, is often thought of as a luxury vegetable, prized for its succulent taste and tender texture. It is harvested in the spring when it is 6 to 8 inches tall. While the most common variety of asparagus is green in color, two other edible varieties are available. White asparagus, with its more delicate flavor and tender texture, is grown underground to inhibit its development of chlorophyll content, therefore creating its distinctive white coloring. It is generally found canned, although you may find it fresh in some select gourmet shops, and it is generally more expensive than the green variety since its production is more labor intensive. The other edible variety of asparagus is purple in color. It is much smaller than the green or white variety (usually just 2 to 3 inches tall) and features a fruitier flavor. It also provides benefits from phytonutrients called anthocyanins that give it its purple color. With prolonged cooking, the purple color may disappear. (courtesy of whfoods.org, where you can find everything, I mean everything, you ever wanted to know about asparagus.)Storing Asparagus
Uncooked asparagus will stay fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator. The secret is to keep the vegetable cool and damp. Store spears upright in a container with the stems wading in an inch of water, then cover loosely with a plastic bag.
To prepare young, tender asparagus simply trim off the bottom end of the stalk where the green begins to fade. Alternatively, snap off the asparagus ends, as shown. Hold spear firmly and bend it until it breaks naturally. The spear should break at the point where it becomes tough.
To prepare larger spears that are tough and woody, simply cut off the tough woody ends. If the spear seems very tough, peel the skin with a asparagus or vegetable peeler.
At only 40kcalories per cup, Asparagus is a low-calorie vegetable high in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Enjoy it raw, steamed, grilled, roasted, sauteed, alone with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon, or get a little creative with it.
The links to recipes, below, share dishes in which asparagus plays a leading role.
- Farmers Market Favorite: Springtime Salad of Asparagus, Strawberry & Radish
- Lemony Asparagus Cannelini & Tuna
- Smitten Kitchen's Ribboned Asparagus Salad with Lemon
Keep an eye out this Friday for another favorite way to use asparagus, on pizza! I recently prepared a Truffled Asparagus Flatbread Pizza with arugula, chevre and prosciutto that proved to be a hit at the recent potluck celebration of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance 3-year birthday. I'll be sharing the recipe, along with links to other member dishes that made up our spectacular spread, celebrating food and community.
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