Of the endless delicious and healthy summer produce we can talk about, asparagus is at the top of our list. Whether it’s because of the veggie’s nutrition benefits or distinctive earthy flavor, we can’t get enough of it. Asparagus emerges each spring after the ground defrosts, its massive root system gives it the strength to grow around six inches a day. This vibrant green vegetable originated in Greece over 2,500 years ago and began to spread in popularity throughout Europe. The Romans offered asparagus to their gods during rituals. During the medieval times, raw asparagus tips were crushed and used to treat swelling and pain due to stings, wounds, and infections.
Fun Fact: Asparagus takes three years from seed to harvest. It reaches its prime after 6-8 years when it can yield as much as one to two tons per acre.
Asparagus: Nutrition Benefits
Asparagus is high in antioxidants and packs a powerful punch of healthy vitamins and minerals: fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K and folate. It’s also a great source of copper, an essential trace mineral that aids in collagen formation, energy production and iron absorption. This nutrient-dense vegetable is one of the best sources of natural inulin, a type of fiber that is not digested in the digestive tract. Instead, it acts as a prebiotic which helps support a healthy gut flora.
How to Choose Asparagus
While delicious and easy to cook with, choosing and storing asparagus can be a bit tricky. Asparagus loses moisture and structure quickly after picking. So it’s important to make sure it’s as fresh as possible when you purchase it. Choose stalks that are long, bright green* and firm (nothing mushy or shriveled). The ends of asparagus tend to become thick, white and fibrous when cut, so you’ll know you have fresh stalks when this is minimized.
How to Store Asparagus
Asparagus is best consumed within one or two days of purchase. To store, trim the rough ends off and place upright in a glass jar with about an inch of water. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
How to Cook Asparagus:
Sautéed, grilled, baked or boiled, asparagus can be cooked in a variety of ways. We love it as part of a veggie-loaded pasta dish, baked with eggs and spring greens in a frittata, or simply dressed with lemon and Parmesan. Its earthy crunch is a complement to any meal!
*Asparagus is most commonly available green, but there are also white and purple varieties. Whichever color you choose, make sure it’s vibrant and strong!