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All About Asparagus

June 16, 2010

It’s out of season according to eattheseasons.com, but when the last local farmer stops selling it in Saint Louis, I will know the pain of missing asparagus again until next spring.  It’s one of my favorite vegetables, and another that I didn’t learn about or eat much of until I entered college. Since I just purchased a couple bunches, I’m going to use this week to feature asparagus in several dishes.  I may only be using green asparagus, because I only know one farmer who is still selling the produce and it’s not white.  I’ve never eaten the blanched variety, but I hear that the flavor is slightly less intense. The only reason it’s white is because it was grown below ground rather than above.

Before eating asparagus you should know…
the beautiful stems of the wispy, fern-like plant have been cultivated for about 2,000-2,500 years.  They are believed to have first been grown in Egypt, Greece and Rome. It was believed that asparagus was a “cleansing” food, which makes sense today, because it is know to be a diuretic.  In addition, the vegetable contains a great deal of protein, dietary fiber and vitamin c. Asparagus a member of the lily family and is one of few vegetables commonly grown that is perennial rather than annual (comes back each year without replanting).  Though they come back every year, asparagus has a slow start, but a well planted bed can continue reproducing for a couple decades.   The slow start for the plant refers to the fact that it can take about three years for the plant to reach a maturity and handle harvesting.  Once the produce is cut, it immediately begins to loose it’s flavor, so it is best to eat asparagus the day it’s bought.  If that’s not possible, trim the ends of the stems and set them in a cup of water (about 1-2 inches) and place them in the refrigerator.  You may also simply wrap the asparagus in a water paper towel to lock in freshness until it is time to cook.

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