It seems asparagus can come in one of four ways. It can have pencil-thin stems or more generous and less skinny. An additional dimension for asparagus is color. The same asparagus can be cultivated as white or green. The thinner asparagus is thought to be younger and more tender, while others think slender asparagus is dry and lacks flavor.
Green asparagus is considered a treat, but “ordinary.” Western and northern Europeans consider white asparagus choicest. White asparagus is achieved by covering early shoots of the vegetable with soil and allowing them no sunshine. It must also be very fresh and peeled. Sometimes the precious shoots are steamed softly in a glass, vertical pot which permits the delicate tips to stay above the water. Their “edible ivory” delights them when served with Hollandaise sauce and boiled potatoes. North Americans have always been less keen on the white stuff but eagerly looked forward to each spring crop of the more ordinary green asparagus, fat stems as well as thin. Fat, thin, white or green asparagus has fans in all cultures.
With this in mind, it is a fortunate home purchaser who buys one with an existing asparagus bed. After remaining dormant for three years, a good, correctly constructed asparagus bed can produce fresh, “free,” delicious asparagus every year for 15 years! This pricey perennial garden vegetable is a member of the lily family, occurs in 300 varieties, but only 20 of them are edible!
History allows certain foods to attract various greats over the years and for many reasons. As early as 3000 BCE the Egyptians honored asparagus for its diuretic properties. The Greeks lauded asparagus for its toothache soothing. The Romans, the Chinese and the Emperor Augustus and the Greek physician Galen enjoyed the asparagus glory train, as well. French monks reverently cultivated asparagus, while the English and Germans were the last to appreciate it.
Asparagus contains a lot of vitamin K and is also rich in vitamins C, E, B1, B2, B6, folate and iron.
Purchase asparagus stalks which are firm and bright green with a purplish/white base. Try to get stalks which are medium in thickness.The tips should be tight, not mushy. Wrap asparagus with wet paper towel and place in refrigerator in zipped bag. Wash before preparing and remove the light end of each stalk. If outer skin is tough, peel lightly with a carrot peeler.
Cook stalks whole by blanching briefly in salted water. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking and preserve its brilliant green color.
- Accents well with thyme, rosemary or tarragon
- Asian appetizer
- Cheese sauce
- Cream soup
- Excellent crudité
- Good with chicken and shiitake mushrooms
- Great stir-fry vegetable
- Lightly steamed, topped with olive oil, lemon juice, shaved cheese
- Side with Hollandaise sauce
Below are foodsites with asparagus recipes.