You know its springtime when you see asparagus hit the grocery stores in full force but did you know that in ancient times, asparagus were also considered an aphrodisiac? Regardless of its powers to put you in the mood, this succulent and savory vegetable contains a stimulating blend of nutrients, making this member of the lily family a perfect food choice for your health.
Asparagus not only taste delicious, but are also a wonderful source of nutrients. They are high vitamin K and folate, and are among many of the well balanced nutrient-rich vegetables. Asparagus are also abundant in anti-inflammatory nutrients. They provide a wide variety of antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, glutathione, vitamin E, as well as the minerals zinc, potassium, manganese and selenium. Asparagus are extremely low in calories at about 20 per serving (five spears), have zero fat, are low in sodium and can be eaten either cooked or raw.
The only possible down fall of consuming asparagus might be the mystery of “stinky pee” , which doesn’t seem to affect everyone or their noses!
Surprising to many, asparagus actually come in three colors. Green, white and purple. While the green variety is most common, the white and purple varieties can be found at health food or specialty stores as well as local farmers markets.
Green: It’s sweet, grassy flavor becomes more vegetal with age. Although it’s available in supermarkets much of the year, but it is best consumed in early to late spring when it is more likely to be fresher and harvested from a local source.
Purple: It’s sweeter, tenderer and produces more stalks per plant than its green cousin. Also known as Violetta d’Albenga, this variety originated northwestern Italy and also grows in California. To preserve its color, use it raw or cook it briefly; the longer it cooks the more likely it will turn from purple to green.
White: Much milder than other varieties and it has just a taste of pleasant bitterness. White asparagus is grown buried in the soil and kept out of the sun to prevent it from chlorophyll which would turn it green. With a little imagination, the ways we can use asparagus are almost endless.
Some of my favorite ways are lightly coated in a little EVOO w/ salt and pepper and thrown on the grill, added to a frittata or a quiche, tossed in with some pasta or added to a quick saute’. You can even top a pizza with them!
Lately, I’ve been kind of on a raw kick so here is a great little pesto. It’s really good on pasta or served as a dip with flatbreads or crackers. I’m thinking it would be delicious spread on a thick cut tomato slice, topped with a little parmesan and heated under to broiler. Yum. No matter how you like them, go for it- they are at their height of freshness this time of year!
- 2 cups rough diced fresh asparagus
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup almonds or walnuts, toasted
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup EVOO
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place asparagus, garlic, nuts and cheese into a food processor. Turn on the processor and while running, slowly stream in the olive oil and lemon juice; process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!!