300 Shades of Green: Asparagus

I’m not going to lie; it took me a while to like asparagus. That said, it’s really good for you! It’s also incredibly versatile and can be used in lots of exciting ways. 

Asparagus is in season between April and June, so the perfect time to try it out is now! There are 300 varieties of asparagus, 20 of which are edible. The most common is green, with white and purple asparagus competing for second place. White asparagus is delicate in flavor and texture. It is grown underground, inhibiting the development of chlorophyll (green pigment) and is the most expensive. Purple asparagus is smaller and has a fruitier flavor. Its lush purple color is due to a phytonutrient called anthocyanin. 
Asparagus is a great source of vitamins A, B, C and K as well as folic acid, iron, potassium, and copper. It is also a good source of fiber and protein with 4-5 grams per cup! Asparagus is:   

  • Cancer-fighting and immune boosting. Both Vitamin A and folic acid are associated with reducing the risk of certain cancers. Vitamin C and glutathione (GSH), both antioxidants, are also associated with decreasing the risk of cancer. Asparagus is a great source of iron that helps strengthen the blood and prevent anemia.
  • Waist-minded. Each spear is only 4 calories or less.
  • Heart-healthy. Potassium helps to control blood pressure and folic acid reduces blood homocysteine levels, which are associated with reducing the risk of heart disease. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium.
  • Anti-inflammatory. Saponins are another kind of phytonutrient found in asparagus that have repeatedly been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Their intake has been associated with improved blood pressure, blood sugar regulation, and blood fat levels.
  • Bowel-friendly. Apart from being a good source of fiber (1 cup of asparagus = 3 grams of fiber), asparagus provides special digestive support by way of prebiotics called inulins that serve as the perfect food for probiotics.
  • Detox-a-licious! It is a mild diuretic and is therefore believed to rid the body of excess water and combat cystitis (urinary bladder inflammation).

How to buy?

Choose firm but tender stalks of asparagus with good color (green or purplish) and closed tips. Stalks should be rounded, and neither fat nor twisted.  

How to store?

Asparagus has a high “respiration rate,” which means that it’s highly perishable. You can offset this by storing it in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper or cloth towel. Use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor and texture.

How to prepare/cook/serve?

Prepare: Thin asparagus does not require peeling, but you do need to remove the thicker skin at the bottom portion of the stem. To remove any sand/soil residues, wash asparagus under cold water. Always cook asparagus whole without first cutting.

Cook: You can boil, steam, stir-fry, or roast! Boil or steam until just tender (3-6 minutes depending on thickness). You can roast with olive oil for ~25 minutes Try this recipe, yum.

Serve: More ideas for this versatile veggie below: 

  • Blend into a soup
  • Roast on the grill with a sprinkle of olive oil and spices
  • Add to salad (cold)
  • Toss into freshly cooked pasta with olive oil and spices such as thyme, tarragon and rosemary
  • Chop into an omelet
  • Use in sandwiches or wraps
  • Sauté with garlic and mushrooms
  • Fancy-it up with recipes from British Asparagus

Alas, asparagus is not perfect. Asparagus is known for its distinct smell. At least 21 different substances have been proposed as the odor-producing substances from asparagus, but despite the mysteries of the urine odor, no research studies have suggested a link between asparagus consumption, odor, and health risk.

Purine-alert: if you have kidney problems or suffer from gout, limit or avoid asparagus consumption. Asparagus has a high purine content, which is then broken down to uric acid. Excess accumulation of uric acid can exacerbate these conditions.  

Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr

Photo by Benson Kua on Flickr


National Asparagus Month

World’s Healthiest Foods

Edited by TCabrarr