Fresh Colorado grown asparagus is a sure sign of spring and a tasty way to put some Vitamins K, C and A on the table. It is also a good source of folate, dietary fiber and a host of healthy minerals and phytochemicals, so don’t hold back, serve asparagus many ways.
Buying & Storing Asparagus
When buying, look for firm stalks with tightly closed tips. While green is the most common color, it can vary from bright green, creamy white or even purple. Pick bundles of stalks that are the same diameter or thickness, as they will cook in the same amount of time.
One pound of asparagus usually has about 12 to 15 spears that are 9 to 10 inches long and ½ to ¾ inch thick. Once purchased, keep it fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can stand the stalks in 1 inch of water, like a bouquet of flowers and cover loosely with a plastic bag. Another method is to wrap the stalks in a damp paper towel, and cover loosely with a plastic bag.
Wash under cool running water just before using. Hold the thick end of the stalk in each hand and gently bend to snap off the bottom inch of each stalk before preparing. Children might enjoy helping with these tasks, especially the snapping of the stalks. When kids help prepare this and other healthy foods they are more likely to try it. For a more uniform length you can cut off the bottom inch of the stalks with a knife.
It can be prepared raw or cooked. The flavor and color of raw asparagus is enhanced by a short dip in boiling water followed by a short (1 minute) soak in ice water. Asparagus cooks quickly and tastes best cooked only until barely tender. If overcooked it can become bitter, stringy or even slimy.
Experiment with cooking methods that best suit the tastes of your family. Try your hand at blanching (5 – 6 min.) in boiling water or steaming (5- 8 min.). My favorite method is to stir-fry (3-5 min.) in a small amount of oil. My brother prefers roasting (8-15 min.) with a little oil in a 400 degree F oven, or he grills it outside (8-10 min.) until lightly browned.
Don’t pick wild asparagus, unless you Ask First. If it is not growing on your property, it belongs to someone else. Wild asparagus may have been exposed to raw sewage, herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals.
For an asparagus mushroom melt recipe visit: http://foodhero.org/recipes/asparagus-mushroom-melt
For more cooking tips and recipes visit: www.michiganasparagus.org/recipes/