At a family wedding this last weekend, we had a discussion about a popular spring vegetable. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that I never liked as a child, but do now. I started making it more recently because my husband loves asparagus. For that reason, I have learned how to prepare and cook it. If you are like me and aren't sure how to prepare asparagus, here's a little information that might help.
When shopping for asparagus, look for firm stalks with dry, tight tips. Wider spears are from older plants, and slender spears from younger ones; both are tender and flavorful. Because it's grown in sandy soil, asparagus should be washed thoroughly to remove any dirt or grit. Though best eaten the day purchased, asparagus can be refrigerated for up to four days by wrapping the ends of the stalks in a wet paper towel and placing the vegetable in a plastic bag. To prepare asparagus for cooking, grasp each spear in the middle and bend until it snaps. They will break naturally at the point where it starts to get stringy and tough.
There are a number of health benefits found in asparagus. It is a good source of folic acid, providing up to 33% of your daily needs in a half-cup serving. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins that helps the body produce and maintain new cells. In particular, red blood cell formation is dependent on adequate levels of this vitamin. It may also help cells resist changes in their DNA associated with the development of cancer. Folic acid plays a very important role in pregnancy by significantly reducing the incidence of birth defects known as neural tube defects (malformations of the spine and brain).
Asparagus is rich in fiber, containing about 3 grams per cup! It also contains a significant amount of protein (about 4-5 grams per cup). Both protein and fiber help stabilize our digestion and keep food moving through us at a desirable rate. Asparagus also contains significant amounts of the nutrient inulin, which is referred to as a "prebiotic." Inulin bypasses the first segments of digestion and arrives at the large intestine undigested. Because of this, it is an ideal food source for certain kinds of "good" bacteria in our intestine that are associated with better nutrient absorption.
Asparagus can be prepared a number of ways including grilling, boiled, microwaved, and roasted in the oven. We typically grill or roast asparagus at our house. Try the recipe below for an easy way to prepare asparagus at your house.
All you need:
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
All you do:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Toss asparagus with olive oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on baking sheet.
3. Roast for 10 minutes or until asparagus is fork-tender.
4. Toss with balsamic vinegar and pepper. If desired, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Nutrition information per serving:
60 calories, 3g Protein, 5g Carbohydrate, 3.5g Fat, 0.5g Saturate Fat, 240mg Sodium, 2g Fiber.
The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.