Asparagus is one of the joys of spring. For a brief three-month window, this aphrodisiac that's been wowing eaters through the ages is piled high in markets. Quick, easy, tasty, nutritionally chock-full, there's only one dubious distinction about asparagus, which we're too lady-like to mention.
Originally from Mesopotamia, asparagus was a favorite dish in Greek and Roman times. Roman emperors went so far as to keep special "asparagus fleets" to ferry choice stalks to their tables. A popular expression for quick action was "faster than cooking asparagus." Centuries later, famed King Louis XIV of France made his gardeners grow asparagus in greenhouses so he could dine on it year round.
Asparagus is a great source of folate, iron and potassium. It's also high in vitamins A and C.
What to Look For
Firm, smooth stalks that have no wrinkles and tight buds at the top. If the buds are drooping and open, the asparagus is past its prime. Likewise, the stalks should be straight and fresh-looking, not yellowed, shriveled or woody.
How to Store
Don't leave asparagus tied in a bundle. It causes the stalks to sweat and the resulting moisture may mean they spoil faster. Instead, trim the stem ends and stand the spears in water like a bouquet of flowers. Asparagus is a member of the Lily family after all. Store in the fridge for no more than a couple of days.
How to Cook
Asparagus is simple and speedy to cook. It's delicious steamed, broiled, grilled or roasted. Asparagus partners well with a range of foods, including lemons, oranges, olive oil, parmesan, anchovies, crabmeat, garlic, chives, parsley, shallots, soy sauce and eggs.
Try These Recipes:
Roasted Asparagus Salad
Michael Romano's Penne with Asparagus and Red Peppers
Spring Chicken Fricassee with Asparagus and Peas