First of the Season – Asparagus is Here!
These crunchy to tender green stalks are well known and loved the world over – with their earthy and mild grassy and sweet flavoring making them a long-time favorite. Their tender and yet fibrous and meaty texture also contributes to their popularity (and makes them an entrée of choice for many Vegetarians), as does their ability to be prepared in a wide variety of ways. Asparagus stalks (technically Spears) tend to be the most tender at the tips getting continually more earthy and woody towards the base of the stalk.
Most of the time you won’t see much in terms of varietals when it comes to Asparagus (beyond colored types like White or Purple – which we’ll cover below), however you may occasionally see more “male” varieties, especially commercially. Coming in both Male and Female versions, the female Asparagus expends a good deal of her energy producing her seeds while the male is able to funnel that energy into producing a thicker more flavor laden stalk. Jersey Giant and Jersey Supreme are examples of “male cultivars”.
Purple Asparagus – one varietal you will see making a trip to the Market this Spring is Purple Asparagus, a type derived from Green Asparagus and easily recognizable by its violet hued stalks. However, don’t be surprised when you slice one open and discover the familiar light green and creamy colored flesh similar to that of Green Asparagus. Texture wise it is less fibrous than other Asparagus varietals, and also one of the most tender. In addition it has the highest sugar content, having approximately 20 percent more, which gives it a slightly sweeter edge. Once cooked, its flavor also develops more nutty and earthy undertones.
Nutrition: Asparagus has the highest Glutathione content of any fruit or vegetable – a more rare anti-oxidant proven to aid in the prevention of cancer and other diseases by preventing damage to important cell components caused by free fadicals, peroxides, and heavy metals. It also aids in metabolic function, and protein synthesis in the body. Purple Asparagus spears garner their coloring from Anthocyanins, which are also their source of anti-oxidants with anti-inflammatory properties as well as aid towards cancer prevention.
(Clockwise from Upper Left)Soft Boiled Egg with Bacon & Asparagus Soldiers:
Asparagus and Coconut Crepes with Sweet Chili Sauce:
Asparagus Mousse with Ham and Red Onion Salad:
Asparagus, Sundried Tomato, and Olive Bread: