Asparagus is a perennial garden plant belonging to the Lily family. It is harvested in the spring when it is 6 to 8 inches tall. The most common variety of asparagus is green in color. There are two other edible varieties available. White asparagus is grown underground to inhibit its development of chlorophyll content, therefore creating its distinctive white coloring. It is generally found canned, although you may find it fresh in some select markets, and it is generally more expensive than the green variety since its production is more labor intensive. The other edible variety of asparagus is purple in color. It is smaller than the green or white variety (usually just 2 to 3 inches tall) and features a fruitier flavor. It also provides benefits from phytonutrients called anthocyanins that give it its purple color.
Low in calories, only 20 per 3.5 oz. serving
Contains no fat or cholesterol
Very low in sodium
A good source of potassium.(1)
A source of fiber (2 grams per 3.5 serving)
An excellent source of folic acid
A significant source of thiamin and vitamin B6
Asparagus stalks should be rounded, and neither fat nor twisted. Look for firm, thin stems with deep green or purplish closed tips. The cut ends should not be too woody, although a little woodiness at the base prevents the stalk from drying out. Once trimmed and cooked, asparagus loses about half its total weight. Use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor and texture. Store in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel.
Preparation and Cooking
Thin asparagus does not require peeling. Asparagus with thick stems should be peeled because the stems are usually tough and stringy. Remove the tough outer skin of the bottom portion of the stem (not the tips) with a vegetable peeler. Wash asparagus under cold water to remove any sand or soil residues. It is best to cook asparagus whole. If you want to cut asparagus into small pieces, it is best to cut them after they are cooked. Asparagus can be served hot or cold.
• Add cold asparagus to your favorite salad.
• Toss cooked pasta with asparagus, olive oil and your favorite pasta spices.
• Chopped asparagus make a flavorful and colorful addition to omelets.
• Sauté asparagus with garlic, mushrooms and tofu or chicken for a complete meal.
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