With local produce in top form, it’s a perfect time to switch up your diet by adding fresh, local vegetables to your plate.
“When it comes to asparagus, many people are discovering that there are more colourful options than the typical green variety,” explains Dan Branson, Loblaws produce guru.
Here Branson discusses when and why you might want to serve up some of the different asparagus choices sprouting up in stores.
Sometimes called white gold or edible ivory, white asparagus is often peeled before cooking and has a tender, mild interior. The vegetable’s pale tone lends a neutral shade to soups but contrasts beautifully with toasted breadcrumbs, sliced ham, prosciutto or fresh chives and herbs. “White asparagus is a perfect choice for a dinner party, especially if your aim is to surprise guests with something unique,” says Branson. Although the skins aren’t typically eaten, they make a flavourful seasoning for soups and bisques.
These deep purple beauties have green hearts and are relative newcomers to Canada’s produce scene. They can be eaten raw thanks to their comparatively sweet flavour. “With its higher sugar content, purple asparagus should be your first choice for dazzling shaved or chopped salads,” advises Branson. “It’s also a great choice for kids who find the green variety bitter. Just don’t expect it to maintain its purple hue after cooking, since it has a habit of turning green in the pan.”
With all sorts of asparagus taking the spotlight, you might be tempted to overlook the traditional green spears, but you shouldn’t. “Use green as a side dish with white meats or if you’re preparing a classic dish that needs a fresh feel. You can’t beat green asparagus in pastas, frittatas and breakfast dishes like eggs benedict, since it really adds a seasonal pop of colour and shows well with a yellow background.”
All varieties of asparagus are a good source of Vitamins A and C, Iron and dietary fibre. Green, white and purple asparagus is available at stores like Loblaws and Your Independent Grocer while it’s in season and the stores source from local growers wherever possible. No matter what shade suits your palate, don’t miss putting fresh Canadian asparagus on your plate while it’s still around.