Season: February to June
Description: Asparagus is a source of vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants that may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. The vitamin A in asparagus helps maintain eye health. Vitamin C protects skin from bruising, helps heal cuts and keeps gums healthy. Eating foods with vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Asparagus also provides potassium, vitamin K and fiber. Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure, vitamin K helps build and maintain strong bones, and fiber helps control cholesterol and keeps you regular. Asparagus is also a source of folate, which may reduce your risk of heart disease. Eating foods with folate before pregnancy helps lower the risk of delivering a baby with neural tube defects.
Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Potassium, Fiber, Folate
Selection: Crisp, round spears. The tips should be pointed and tightly closed. Asparagus spears should be the same thickness so looking times for all spears will be similar.
Storing: In the refrigerator. Cut off 1 inch from the end and place upright in 1 inch of water or in a plastic bag with the ends wrapped in a wet cloth or paper towel. Use within 2 to 3 days.
Preparation: Clean asparagus under cool running water. If the tips have sand or dirt in them, dunk the tips in and out of water, then rinse well. Trim off any tough or white ends.
Serving: Blanch by putting asparagus spears or pieces in boiling water, then reduce heat and cook uncovered for 2 to 5 minutes. The asparagus is done when it can be easily pierced with a sharp knife point. To keep asparagus green and crisp after cooking, run it under cold water or dip in bowl of ice water to set the color. Top with butter, lemon or grated Parmesan cheese. Add asparagus to an omelet, a favorite stir-fry or pasta dish. Asparagus can also be grilled, roasted or microwaved.