Did you know that Asparagus is a flowering perennial (it was a member of the same plant family as lilies, but was reclassified) that grows fruit? You don’t see that very often because the Asparagus spears we buy and eat are young and haven’t matured to that point yet. Ontario grown Asparagus is in season from May to June, but we’re fortunate to have access to hothouse asparagus year-round. While most people are familiar with the bright green variety, this veggie also comes in cream and purple colours.
Asparagus is rich in fibre and can be enjoyed in many ways, such as, roasted as a side, stir-fried, or added to a creamy pasta.
How to Pick and Store Asparagus:
When buying asparagus, make sure you select a bunch with spears that are roughly the same size. This will make for even cooking. Also, look for asparagus bunches that have nice tight tips and good bright colour.
1 pound of asparagus = 16 to 20 spears = 2 cups chopped
Store asparagus with their ends wrapped in a damp cloth (or paper towel) and place in a plastic bag. This should keep it fresh for 3 to 4 days in your refrigerator. Or, you can cut off about a ¼-inch of the stalk and place upright in 2 inches of cold water, covering with plastic, and storing in the fridge.
How to Prepare Asparagus:
If the cut ends seem dry and woody, instantly get rid of them by simply holding the stalk and snapping the ends off. Don’t toss the woody ends though! They soften when cooked and are great in soups and sauces.
The spears could be sliced thick or thin, chopped, sliced on the bias for a stir-fry, or left whole. Try slicing raw asparagus paper-thin (use a vegetable peeler or mandolin) and add to a salad or pasta.
It’s best to only cook asparagus to tender crisp – basically until it turns bright green. Asparagus can be cooked so many ways – it can be coated in batter and fried, wrapped in pastry or pork and baked, tossed with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt and roasted, and even steamed, boiled, or grilled.
Try this awesome recipe for an Asparagus, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Frittata!
Awesome Asparagus Tips:
- Instead of snapping off the woody ends, slice off a ¼-inch of the stalk (just the dry white end) and then peel the ends. By peeling the ends, you’re removing the tough skin, making them tender and pretty. This will save you money and asparagus.
- As asparagus cooks, it will turn bright green. That’s the sign it’s tender crisp and ready to be eaten.
- To prep ahead of time – blanch it! Cook the asparagus until it’s almost done, then quickly cool it. All you have to do to finish cooking the it is gently heat it up.
- Remove asparagus from heat just before you think it’s done. The residual cooking heat will continue cooking them for 30 – 60 seconds longer.
- Thin, tender asparagus is delicious when served raw in salads.
- Save leftover asparagus, it’s perfect chopped up and added to pasta, egg, rice, and hearty salads.
- A simple vinaigrette tastes great on steamed, grilled, or boiled asparagus.
What Goes Well With Asparagus?
Butter, basil, cheese, cream, dill, eggs, garlic, hollandaise sauce, lemon, mushrooms, Dijon, olive oil, pancetta, parsley, pepper, prosciutto, salmon, shallots, soy sauce, and vinegar.