For the true vegetable lover, the first sure sign of spring is the appearance of asparagus in the produce aisle.
The feeling is understandable: Those tender spears combine nutritional strength with a delicate flavor admired by vegetable gourmets.
This explains why people have grown asparagus for more than 2,000 years. For some it has even been something of a passion; France’s King Louis XIV had special greenhouses built so he could enjoy this springtime treat all year long.
The ancients prized asparagus medicinally as a cleansing tonic. Today we know that it’s a good source of folate, a B vitamin, along with vitamins B1, B6 and C. Asparagus also contains glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, as well as fiber and potassium.
When shopping for asparagus look for bright-green spears with firm, closed, compact tips. (The rarer white asparagus is the same plant covered with dirt as it grows to bleach the stems.)
To store the spears properly trim a quarter-inch off the stem end and wash in warm water several times before patting them dry. Cover the stem ends in a moist paper towel before wrapping the bunch in plastic wrap or foil, or stand them upright in two inches of cold water before wrapping.
You can also freeze asparagus. First sort the spears by thickness—small, medium and large—before blanching in boiling water for no more than two minutes. Do not defrost before use.
Quick cooking preserves the flavor and nutritional value of asparagus. The standard side dish—lightly boiled or steamed spears dressed with a little butter or olive oil—is an all-time classic.
But asparagus can also let you play the role of kitchen show-off, such as the brunch-worthy version of scrambled eggs shown in this recipe. It also pairs well with pasta, adds color to stir-frys and takes beautifully to roasting.
Fresh Asparagus Scramble
1 lb asparagus spears, ends trimmed
8 large eggs*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz whipped garlic-and-herb cream cheese
1 pt cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Can also use 3 whole eggs and 9 egg whites
Yields: 6 servings
Source: California Asparagus Commission
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.