I’m a firm believer that anything is fancy when asparagus is added. Macaroni and Cheese becomes a masterpiece of pasta, fromage, and asparagus. Restaurant leftovers are magically transformed from a not-so-healthy meal into a new, delicious, healthy dinner with asparagus. I just love asparagus. And this love affair has gotten intense since moving and cooking for 1. Those little green stalks of deliciousness are so easy to prepare. I used to be scared of asparagus, just like I was of kale. But then I realized that if I can cook frozen veggies in the microwave, I surely must be able to cook asparagus in the microwave too. So one day I washed the asparagus, snapped it into three pieces, threw them in a bowl with a tad bit of water, covered with saran wrap, and nuked those bad boys. And you know what? Perfection. So I thought I would make asparagus Goodie-Packed Food 2.
(Please do remember that anything I write about these Goodies is the result of my research that wasn’t always the most extensive and was done to serve my needs, and no one else’s. If I’m wrong about any of my findings, I welcome polite correction!)
Asparagus is an easy vegetable that doesn’t appeal to anyone. When I was little I said I didn’t like “spare-grass.” But, as with most vegetables, as I got older I began to love it. Whenever I’m cooking a special meal for my family, like a birthday dinner, asparagus is always my vegetable of choice. In my opinion it goes with most anything and just fancifies the meal. My mom was always around to help me cook the meals and usually added things to the asparagus to make them fancier. She would steam them in an actual steamer, grill them, sauté them with garlic, etc. But I like my asparagus plain and simple.
So how do we get started with asparagus?
First, I like to look for a bunch at the grocery store/farmers market that matches the amount I’ll eat. Too much, and it will go bad. Too little, and I’ll be sad.
Second, I look for a nice green color and stalks that still look strong. Wilty stalks are no good. You want your stalks to be on the thinner side and to be unwrinkled (teehee).
Third, I just go with my gut. The asparagus talks to me. I pick the bunch that is saying in a sweet, little voice “pick me, pick me!” And I pick them.
Now that you’ve got your asparagus it is important to know how to store them. You can’t just throw them in your vegetable bin in the fridge. Asparagus is like a flower; it needs to be stored in water. That’s right. Fill a wide cup with water and drop that bunch in there. I find an old coffee cup works (no idea how we ended up with this Campbell’s soup cup but it is the perfect size). I like to store my asparagus on the door so that nothing bumps it. It seems to fit perfectly here. Some people suggest putting in open Ziploc bag over the bunch too. I don’t do that but if it tickles your pickle, go for it.
When you’re ready to eat your stalks of joy there are a few simple steps.
1. You need to break off the end that doesn’t quite look right. Don’t worry, your asparagus knows where that is and will break off for you. Hold the asparagus at the nasty end (the opposite of the flowery top) and a few inches away. Bend your asparagus and it will naturally break at the right point. Asparagus are so smart.
2. Some people like to peel their asparagus. I have never done this, never been taught to, and don’t see a need to. Veggies should be easy to me and peeling adds an extra step. However, if you would like to just use a vegetable peeler from the end to the flowery top. Be sure not to go over the same spot twice or you’ll end up with some sad asparagus. I hear this helps take away some of the stringiness but I’ve never felt asparagus to be stringy. Maybe if you’re not an asparagus fan this will be a good step for you?
3. Now the cooking. If you want to do my microwave version, just snap the asparagus in half or thirds and toss in a bowl. Add a little bit of water, cover with saran wrap, and microwave. Add a little bit of water, cover with saran wrap, and microwave. If you’d like to steam your asparagus in a steamer basket then there is no need to break your asparagus before cooking. Just throw them in the basket and steam away. Boiling is another option. You can boil your asparagus in a shallow pan of water. Again, you don’t need to break ahead of time. No matter what method you choose, asparagus goes from uncooked to cooked really quickly so keep a close watch. As with all veggies, they are at their peak when their color is at its brightest so don’t let your asparagus get too light.
Now this couldn’t be a GPF2 post if I didn’t discuss why asparagus is so good for you.
Half cup (about 6 spears) cooked with no added salt contains 2.16 grams of protein, 20 calories and 1.8 grams of fiber.
|Potassium – 202 mg
Phosphorus – 49 mg
Calcium – 21 mg
Iron – 0.82 mg
Sodium – 13 mg
Magnesium – 13 mg
Zinc – 0.54 mg
Copper – 0.149 mg
Manganese – 0.139 mg
Selenium – 5.5 mcg
Also contains small amounts of other minerals.
|Vitamin A – 905 IU
Vitamin C – 6.9 mg
Niacin – 0.976 mg
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – 0.146 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – 0.125 mg
Pantothenic Acid – 0.203 mg
Vitamin B6 – 0.071 mg
Folate – 134 mcg
Vitamin K – 45.5 mcg
Vitamin E – 1.35 mg
Contains some other vitamins in small amounts.
Asparagus is an excellent source of protein and fiber. The DRI of protein for a female in my age range (19-30) is 46 grams and of fiber is 25 g. (source). We all know the benefits of protein and fiber—protein keeps us full and fiber helps our tummies move. It is low in calories, and rumor has it that it takes more calories to digest this vegetable than it has, so yay (source)! Like kale, it is a good source of antioxidants that help remove harmful free radicals from the body. A half cup of asparagus contains 134 mcg of folate and the DRI of folate is:
|Age (years)||Males and Females (μg/day)||Pregnancy (μg/day)||Lactation (μg/day)|
A half cup of asparagus provides about a fourth of the DRI of folate, a good portion of fiber and protein, and lots of antioxidants. Add in some other yummies, like peas, kale, and asparagus, and you’ve got a full meal!
Beware, asparagus can turn your piddle green and give off a crazy smell! Why? Asparagus pee is a crazy phenomenon that has been known to cause some a lot of embarrassment. Some say that only certain people produce the smell, some say it is possible to produce a stronger smell than someone else, and still some say that only certain people are able to detect the smell. During digestion, certain compounds are metabolized that give off an odor due to various sulfur-containing processes. Want to learn more? The ever trust Wikipedia.
But don’t worry. I’ve never noticed asparagus pee smell to be lingering. Just flush the loo and go on with your day.
As with all veggies, creativity is key. It isn’t easy to mess a veggie up unless you’re slathering it in unhealthy sauces. Allow veggies to be as natural as possible and add spices a little at a time. Want some easy recipe ideas?
Sautéed Garlic Asparagus (try replacing the butter with olive oil!)