Homemaker’s Column: The Arrival of Asparagus

March 28, 2022

Christine J. Patrick, County Extension Agent – EFNEP

Asparagus is in season during the spring of the year. Give this vegetable just one more try for those of you who have sworn off asparagus because your only taste was the mushy army-green colored stalks from the can. You’re in for a pleasant surprise. Fresh asparagus and canned asparagus offer only a fleeting resemblance to each other when it comes to flavor and consistency. Appropriately cooked, fresh asparagus is tender but still provides just the slightest bit of resistance when bitten. The color should be bright green. Fresh asparagus is a taste of springtime when sprinkled lightly with salt, olive oil, and perhaps a little balsamic vinegar.

The nutritional virtues of asparagus are just as pleasant. A typical serving, six spears, has 22 calories, only a trace amount of fat, and approximately 60% of the daily requirement for folic acid, a B vitamin. Folic acid is necessary for blood cell formation and growth. It has also been shown to play a significant role in preventing neural tube defects at birth, such as spina bifida. A member of the lily family (which also includes onions, leeks, and garlic), asparagus stalks are harvested after three growing seasons. In the first season, a crown forms, and roots develop; In the second season, the crown grows into a fern; the stalk can be harvested in the third season. The plant will reach its prime in six to eight years.

When purchasing asparagus, look for bundles containing stalks that are roughly the same size (this will ensure they all cook in the same amount of time.) The tips should be closed and compact. If you do not cook asparagus the same day you buy it, store it by first washing thoroughly to remove sand or grit, then wrap a moist paper towel around the cut end of the stalks, and place it in a covered container in the refrigerator. This storage method will keep fresh asparagus in top-notch condition for at least three days.

Try one of these easy cooking methods. Saucepan: Cook spears or pieces in a small amount of boiling water until tender. Fresh asparagus will be tender-crisp in 5 to 8 minutes. Stir-fry: Cut spears diagonally in half-inch pieces, leaving tips whole. Stir-fry in a scant amount of hot oil at medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Microwave: Place one pound of spears in a baking dish with tips arranged toward the center. Add 1/4 cup of water and cover tightly—microwave on HIGH for 4 to 7 minutes. Stir or turn halfway through cooking time. After the asparagus is cooked, you might want to add a topping such as bottled Italian dressing, homemade vinaigrette, or low-fat honey mustard dressing. All these flavors complement fresh asparagus very well.

  • Marinated Asparagus Salad

1 pound of fresh asparagus
One small red (or other) onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
Italian salad dressing

Cook asparagus by any of the methods described above. Cool. Combine with onion and tomatoes and enough salad dressing to moisten (about 2 to 3 Tbsps.) Stir gently. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Stir again before serving. Serve four.

Calories: 88 per serving
Fat: 9 grams per serving

  • Cheesy Asparagus

1 pound of fresh asparagus
Four slices of American processed cheese
1 to 2 Tbsps. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. paprika (optional)

Cook asparagus by any of the methods described above. Sprinkle with lemon juice—top asparagus with slices of processed cheese. Place in an ovenproof dish and broil just until cheese melts (observe). If desired, sprinkle with paprika. Serve four.

Calories: 129 per serving
Fat: 9 grams per serving

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.


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