May Produce Spotlight: Asparagus

May 20, 2011

By Lana Buseman, Communications Design Specialist
Asparagus 
Photo from worldcommunitycookbook.org

May is a very exciting month for many reasons. It is the first month of the year when we can actually start to feel some spring-like weather (in Chicago at least), school is almost over and lots of delicious produce starts to come in season. I love being able to walk through a farmer’s market and pick up tons of fruits and veggies that I know were just picked freshly from someone’s garden or farm. I especially love finding a fruit or vegetable that I am unfamiliar with and learning how to use it, or learning a new way to cook something I thought I knew well.

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and May is actually National Asparagus Month so it seems like a good time to share a few facts and tips on how to prepare this food.

Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin E, calcium and dietary fiber and is considered a spring vegetable. Typically the asparagus we see is green, but it can also be white or purple. Asparagus is a very sturdy vegetable so it can stand up to many different cooking methods. When you are shopping for this veggie, you want the stalks to be firm and able to snap if you bend them. Many recipes will require you to remove the woody stems. To do this, gently bend the stalk and it will naturally break where the woody stem starts.

Preparing Asparagus*

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can serve as a side dish, main course or as a snack. Here are some ideas on how to prepare yours.

  • Marinate stalks in some soy sauce, rice vinegar and red pepper and grill until slightly charred and caramelized.
  • Toss asparagus with some olive oil and salt and roast in a 400-degree oven until tender.
  • Sauté stalks with some balsamic vinegar and soy sauce until tender. Top with shaved pecorino cheese.
  • Stand asparagus straight up in a tall pot of boiling water. This helps tenderize the woody stems without overcooking the delicate tips. Serve with a sprinkle of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
  • Chop asparagus on thin bias and toss raw with other vegetables in a spring salad.
  • Puree cooked asparagus, leeks, carrots, celery and vegetable broth. Add a tiny bit of cream for an asparagus and leek soup.
  • Save the woody stems to use in homemade vegetable stock.

*Make sure you don’t overcook your asparagus. The level of doneness you want is a tender stalk that is easily pierced with a fork, but still has a bite to it.

Click here to read more about May's special vegetable including more ideas on how to eat it!