Spring Ingredient Profile: Asparagus

Our guide to all things asparagus complete with tons of asparagus recipes will have you cooking like its spring in no time!

Quick Facts About Asparagus

* Asparagus is harvested in the spring and therefore a spring vegetable.
* Though cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, asparagus was re-popularized in the 18th century by the French.
* Asparagus is now being mass produced in China, the United States, Europe, Mexico and Peru.

Why We Love Asparagus

The tenderness of a batch of steamed asparagus is our secret weapon during Spring. Crisp and tender at the same time, asparagus spears are the perfect combination of intense flavor and nutrition. But, liking asparagus can be an acquired taste, especially for children. It doesn't taste like any other vegetable out there but that's precisely why we love it!

Why Is Asparagus Good For Us?

Asparagus in its pure form is very healthy. Not only is it loaded with vitamins and nutrients, but the vegetable is low in calories and perfect for losing weight (you might think all vegetables are low in calories but think avocado, which is not).

Asparagus is extremely rich in nutrients and vitamins that help the body maintain health. Asparagus contains large amounts of:

* Vitamin K which helps the body prevent blood clots.
* Folate which helps the body produce red blood cells and DNA and also prevents neural defects in children while in the womb.
* Vitamin C, an antioxidant required for hundreds of metabolic function in the body

Because of the folate it contains, asparagus is also great for the heart, preventing cardiovascular diseases and reducing heart attacks. Asparagus is also a natural diuretic, meaning it helps flush the body of excess water and prevents swelling, arthritis and rheumatism. Medicinally, asparagus extracts have been prescribed to help treat urinary tract infections.

Selecting and Storing Asparagus

A perfect green asparagus spear has rounded stalks and deep green or purple tops. When choosing your asparagus, make sure the bottom ends are round, not fat, and do not feel like wood. When you purchase fresh asparagus, try and use it right away for the best flavor and nutrients.

If you need to store your asparagus, use the refrigerator. Wrap their ends in a damp paper towel and keep them away from any light.

Other Varieties of Asparagus

The most widely known and used variety of asparagus is green, but asparagus also comes in two other colors: white and purple. Because all three varieties have different flavors, they lend themselves to very different dishes.

White - The same plant as green asparagus, white asparagus is simply grown in different lighting, preventing green color and producing a less bitter taste than green asparagus. This variety is popular in Europe, particularly,

Purple - Sweeter than green and white asparagus, purple asparagus was originally developed in Italy and has less fiber. It's now also being bred in New Zealand and the United States.
Our Favorite Asparagus Recipes
Asparagus Appetizer Recipes

For a unique spring treat, incorporate asparagus into your appetizer at your next party or gathering.

Asparagus Rolls -These asparagus rolls are a HUGE hit at every party. You can experiment a little with the ingredients. Be creative!

Aspragus Gruyere Tart - This delicious, puff-pastry, asparagus and Gruyère cheese tart is great for a special occasion, such as the Easter day feast.

Snappy Asparagus Dip - This different dip has lots of different flavors going on, making it really fabulous!

Asparagus, Orange and Endive Salad - Endive is a slightly bitter green that is very high in folic acid and vitamins A and K. The sweet orange balances it nicely in this refreshing salad.

Creamy Asparagus Chowder - This is a tasty cream soup with the distinct flavor of asparagus blending with thyme, marjoram and cheese.

Asparagus Side Dish Recipes

Seeing as asparagus is a vegetable, it's always a good idea to whip up some asparagus for a side dish to your healthy meal. Simply steam it and serve or try one of these extra delicious recipes.

Citrus Asparagus Saute - This is a very light vegetable with excellent flavor from the orange juice.

Grilled California Asparagus with Romesco Sauce - With sun-dried tomato and white wine vinegar, this asparagus is truly gourmet.

Asparagus with Garlic Brown Butter - Everything tastes good with garlic and butter!

Asparagus with Orange Sauce - A wonderful and flavorful sauce to top asparagus with.

Breaded Asparagus Sticks - This is a fun dish for appetizer or side dish. It could also be a way to bribe your kids into eating greens: fry 'em!

Asparagus Almondine - Add some toasted almonds along with lemon juice to your steamed asparagus for an excellent side dish.

Balsamic Asparagus - This simple recipe is very elegant and enhanced by O Olive Oil port balsamic vinegar!

Roasted Asparagus with Feta - Serve this robust dish alongside grilled steak or pork.

Asparagus with Ginger Flavored Soy Sauce - Simply seasoned, asparagus dish uses Asian flavors. The perfect accompaniment for any stir fry.

Scalloped Asparagus - This creamy dish will appease even asparagus fearers.

Asparagus Main Course Recipes

Asparagus is often served as a side dish but don't forget it can also shine as the main ingredient! Cook some spears up in a taco or make a stirfry. Try these recommended recipes.

Asparagus Chicken - This is an incredibly tender chicken recipe with very easy prep. This would probably work for pork chops as well.

Beef and Asparagus Stir Fry - This healthy stir fry recipe is wonderful. The beef goes great with the fresh asparagus and bell peppers.

Grilled Asparagus Tacos - Serve those green vegetables in a taco and your kids will gobble them up.

Chicken Asparagus Parmesan - This easy dish tastes like you just paid a lot of money for it. It is delicious and the asparagus goes well with the parmesan cheese.

Asparagus and Shrimp with Toasted Bread Crumbs, Garlic and Lemon - This elaborate-sounding dish is actually quite simple to make and absolutely delicious.

Asparagus Casserole Recipes

Veggies always make great additions to casseroles, especially asparagus! Chop it up, add to the rest of your ingredients, and voila!

Chicken Asparagus Casserole - This casserole is absolutely delicious. The mixture of cream of mushroom soup with asparagus and chicken is to die for.

Asparagus and Onion Casserole -

Green Asparagus Casserole - For variations on this dish, add green peas, cooked cubed celery or hard-cooked egg slices. Also, it may be used as an entree if the white meat of chicken is put on the bottom of the casserole.

Amazing Asparagus Casserole - A great recipe that is easy to prepare. This asparagus casserole is always a big hit at potluck get-togethers.

Asparagus Casserole - Excellent for those special occasions and carry in dinners.

Asparagus and Egg Recipes

Asparagus is really popular during Easter not just because it's a spring ingredient but because it tastes great with eggs! Serve any of these asparagus and egg recipes at your next brunch!

Bacon and Asparagus Frittata - Another great brunch dish with crunchy asparagus and creamy cheese.

Italian Asparagus Quiche - This yummy vegetarian quiche is a fancy addition to a luncheon.

Asparagus Omelets - This recipe is a neat twist on traditional omelets.

Grilled Asparagus with Bacon and Eggs - This vegetable dish is practically a full meal with bacon, egg, and cheese.

Fresh Asparagus Quiche - This cheese and egg dish is great with fresh spring asparagus. You can also make this your next meatless meal for Lent!

Asparagus Pasta Recipes

The unique taste of asparagus makes a perfect addition to pasta! Simply chop it up and cook along with your favorite noodle or enjoy these asparagus pasta recipes!

Pasta with Asparagus - A simple way to add color and life to your pasta with asparagus and bacon.

Asparagus and Chicken Lasagna - The different tastes of this lasagna will surprise and delight company.

Tagliattelle with Shitake Mushrooms and Asparagus - My mushroom essence, which you can prepare well in advance, has such a rich taste that just a few spoonfuls make a big impression upon four servings of pasta.

Ham and Asparagus Fettuccine - Fresh, flavorful and read in under a half hour. A delicious dinner any day.

Pasta with Sugar Snap Peas, Asparagus and Parmesan - Crunchy snap peas and asparagus add great texture to this bowtie pasta.

Celebrating Asparagus

Every spring, the town of Stockton California celebrates asparagus with its very own Stockton Asparagus Festival. This year's asparagus fest will take place April 24-26, 2009. There they have a deep fried asparagus eating competition along with musical performances. For more information on the festival, click here.

Sources:
WHFoods.org
Wikipedia.com

Author:
Hillary Marshak is a writer and editor for Recipe4Living.com, a popular recipe sharing Website. For more articles like this, or for a large collection of recipes, visit the site at http://www.Recipe4Living.com.

Article Source: Sustainable Living Articles

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