Food Focus: Asparagus

Happy asparagus season! Asparagus is one of the first fresh veggies to show up in the spring garden, and its harvest signals the start of an upcoming season of bounty. Even though we’re all looking forward to warm weather, check out why you should spend some time basking in the joy of the early spring asparagus season.

What does it look like?

Asparagus spears typically are bright green pencil-sized stalks with a small, compact head that narrows to a point. Most asparagus sold in stores and at farmer’s markets is green, but there are also white and purple varieties.

What does it taste like?

Asparagus has a very unique flavor that can be described as bright and clean with earthy undertones. The flavor is very mild when the spears are fresh. If you’ve ever tried asparagus before and it was bitter or sour, it could be because the asparagus was past its prime or overcooked. Asparagus does a great job of working with other flavors and absorbs flavors such as garlic, vinegar, and lemon.

Why is it good for me?

With nearly 70% of your Vitamin K daily allowance per cup, asparagus is a nutritional powerhouse. Asparagus also has a unique combination anti-inflammatory nutrients that may help reduce the risk of common chronic health issues, like diabetes and heart disease. Asparagus is also rich in fiber, making it a great food to help keep digestion in order, help regulate blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease.

When and where do I get it?

Asparagus becomes available in the very early springtime, starting around March in the majority of the U.S. It will be one of the first crops farmers sell at spring farmer’s markets around the country.

Most supermarkets carry asparagus year around, although when out of season, spears can cost three or more times what they’ll cost during the spring. So get it while it’s cheap and fresh!

How do I prepare asparagus?

Before you do any sort of cooking, the woody base stems of asparagus need to be trimmed off. Using a sharp knife, cut off about one inch from the cut end of the asparagus and discard (you can also do this by snapping off the end). The remaining stem can be boiled, sauteed, used in stir-frys and pastas or—my favorite—roasted. I like to toss mine in a bit of olive oil with some salt and pepper and roast in a 350° oven until the spears are bright green and just barely tender, about 10 minutes. If you want to be adventurous, try adding some garlic or lemon.

What are some good recipes?

It’s hard to beat fresh asparagus roasted on its own as a side dish, but if you’re looking for something a little fancier, try out some of these delicious options.

Simple Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto
Vegan Asparagus and Potato Salad
Light Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus
Oven Baked Lemon Zest Asparagus
Roasted Asparagus Soup
Simple Asparagus Quiche

What is your favorite way to prepare asparagus?

Photo credit: Maggie Hoffman

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Cassie Johnston is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer living and working in Southern Indiana. Her work has been feature in national publications such as Gourmet Magazine and The Huffington Post. Cassie’s a big fan of strenuous hikes, cheese, watching sports, Brussels sprouts, and craft beer, and she’ll talk your ear off about her love of local food and seasonal eating. She’s obsessed with social media and loves connecting with new friends!