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Asparagus

All About Asparagus

All About Asparagus

Green, white, violet or wild… Regardless of variety, asparagus is known for its versatility and refined taste. Here are the best techniques to bring out the flavor of this vegetable.


 

Characteristics

Asparagus is a stem vegetable. It’s effectively a young edible shoot that grows out from an underground stem or rhizome that can produce asparagus for 15 to 20 years. Asparagus is picked in the spring while it is soft, fleshy and 15 to 20 centimetres long.

There are about twenty varieties of edible asparagus that are divided into three groups: green asparagus, which is the most common, white asparagus, which is the result of etiolating, better known as light deprivation, and violet asparagus, which has a distinctive fruity flavour.

See the recipe for Baked Cocorico Asparagus

Baked Cocorico Asparagus

 


 

Nutritional Benefits

Asparagus is low in calories and boasts tons of nutritional ingredients like folic acid, an essential vitamin for pregnant and nursing women. A source of fibre, vitamins A and C and many minerals, asparagus also provides antioxidants that may help our body prevent the risk of many diseases like some cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

 


The Right Techniques

1How to pick

Choose young, tender asparagus with bright, shiny, crisp stalks. The tips should be short and slightly purple. A soft, yellowish or dried out stalk and an opened tip is a sign that the vegetable is not fresh.

2How to prepare

Before cooking asparagus, remove the hard fibrous part at the base of the spear. Hold the base of the spear with one hand and the centre of the stalk with your other hand. Bend the spear slightly until it snaps. The break will automatically occur where the soft and hard spots meet. You can also choose to peel large spears, without touching the tips, especially in the case of white asparagus.


Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Gremolata

3How to cook

Avoid overcooking the asparagus as it becomes soft and loses its flavour and colour; it should remain slightly crunchy.

In a pot or steamed:

Cook the asparagus spears for 4 to 5 minutes in boiling salt water, or steam from 5 to 7 minutes in a steamer.

Microwave:

Place the asparagus in a rectangular dish filled with a small amount of water and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave 8 or 9 minutes.

Oven:

On a baking tray, mix asparagus, oil, salt and pepper. Make sure to coat the spears fully. Bake in a preheated oven at 425°F (220°C) for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is tender, but still crunchy.

BBQ:

Preheat the BBQ on high heat. Place the raw asparagus on the grill and brush with a vinaigrette or a mix of olive oil and lemon juice. Once their tips darken, after about 3 or 4 minutes, they’re ready!

See the recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Gremolata


Expert Tip

Tie the asparagus together while cooking, it makes it easier to remove the spears once they’re cooked.

 

4How to pick

Asparagus will stay fresh a few days in the refrigerator wrapped in wet cloth. Another way to store asparagus is to cut one or two centimetres off the base of the spears and place them upright in a jar with a little water.

5How to prepare

Cooked asparagus can be eaten warm or cold with a pat of butter, a splash of vinaigrette or a little mayonnaise. Grilled, it can add flavour to salads, pastas, risottos, omelets, quiches and sandwiches. To fry it in the oven, garnish the asparagus with some parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.


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