First of the Season – Asparagus is Here!!!
They may be mostly available year round these days, but Asparagus’ “in season” season is Spring – and so its with open arms that we embrace it’s arrival at the Farmers Markets! Getting produce when it’s in season means getting it when it tastes the best – and there’s not much better than a perfectly tender and succulent Asparagus stalk!
Well known and loved the world over, these crunchy to tender green stalks are favorited for their earthy and mild grassy flavoring with their deliciously sweet to nutty undertones. 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”.
Asparagus’ popularity is also due in part to its largely flexible nature, especially when it comes to its culinary applications. Asparagus can be prepared, cooked, and consumed in wide variety of ways, all with their own qualities. From sauteeing, to baking, to steaming, to roasting and grilling there are lot of options to choose from, and paying attention to the size and your flavor preferences can help you determine your favorite. The tender and delicate spears are usually the preferred choice, and make great additions to salads or eaten raw, however if cooked preparations are your goal seeking out those thicker stalks will ensure they hold up better to cooked preparations like grilling. And it’s roasting or grilling that will reveal the sweeter sides of the stalks (steaming or boiling retains the earthier flavoring). You can check out all our favorite recipe links below!
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.
Asparagus 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.
Since there are so many ways to cook and eat this Spring favorite, we scoured the web for some varied and creative ways to consume these green stalks – so read on and dig in!
From Breakfast to Dinner here were some of our favorite meals starring Asparagus (Clockwise from upper Left):
Roasted Sesame Asparagus Toasts with Poached Egg (How Sweet Eats):
Tartine Style Asparagus and Spring Onion Croque Monsieur (Alexandra’s Kitchen):
Spring Greens and Asparagus and Ricotta Pasta (Foodie Crush):
Springtime Veggie Skillet Lasagna (How Sweet Eats):
And for some more delicious bites featuring Asparagus – The BBC put together an awesome line-up of Creative Recipes starring Asparagus and so we’ve highlighted our Picks Here:
(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: