May 26th, 2018

From Our Table: Amazing asparagus

By Medicine Hat News on April 24, 2018.

Spring weather has finally arrived. I’m sure many people are eagerly anticipating planting flower and vegetable gardens. Late April early May is typically a time that one of my favourite vegetables comes into season

Asparagus used to be called sparrow grass but it’s in the genus “asparagus” and that’s the exact name most know it by. It’s a flowering perennial that is made up of 93 per cent water so is very low in calories with only 20 calories in 100 grams. Its deep green colour indicates that although it’s low in calories it is rich in nutrients. It’s especially high in vitamins B1 and 2 as well as folate, vitamin K and iron. It also has fibre, protein, vitamin C and vitamin E and numerous trace minerals such as manganese, chromium and selenium.

Typically only young asparagus shoots are eaten once the buds start to open. The base of the asparagus can turn woody quickly. Stem thickness tells the age of he plant. The thicker the stem the older it is and is likely to be more woody. You can still use the older, thicker stalks just use the top of the plant and cut off the woody base of the stalk.

Asparagus is actually native to Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It has a fairly short growing season of just end of April to June. It’s great that it can be shared now in North America so we can all enjoy its unique flavour. Another unique feature of asparagus is that after you eat it there will be a unique odour to your urine. No it’s not your imagination it’s scientifically proven. It can happen in just 15 to 30 minutes after you eat it. Asparagus has asparagusic acid so when it is digested it’s broken down into compounds that contain sulfur which is one component that gives the unique smell. It’s totally safe and nothing to worry about, just a unique feature of asparagus.

Asparagus can be eaten in a variety of wonderful ways. Instead of a specific recipe here are 10 tips to enjoy this seasonal spring veggie.

1. Steam in a small amount of water for a very short time so it stays crisp. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese while hot and serve immediately.

2. Brush asparagus with a bit of olive oil then wrap it with a piece of prosciutto. You could also add a small piece of a stronger cheese such as asiago. Put on baking sheet and bake in oven for a few minutes until tender but crisp.

3. Cut asparagus into bite size pieces and use in a stir fry with your other favourite veggies and choice of meat

4. Use leftover asparagus in an omelette or with scrambled eggs.

5. Boil your favourite pasta and toss with pesto, cooked asparagus pieces and cherry tomatoes.

6. Use in your favourite soups or stews.

7. Grill on the barbecue by brushing with a bit of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Turn frequently and cook until just tender. Add your favourite spices or a drizzle of balsamic reduction before serving.

8. Use leftover asparagus as a topping on pizza.

9. You can preserve asparagus in a brine exactly the same as you would make dill pickles or other pickled veggies.

10. Fresh. Just raw. Nothing else. Delicious!

Enjoy this beautiful spring weather!

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

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