Serve your family asparagus and you will all benefit from the high amounts of potassium, vitamin B-6, thiamine and fiber. This vegetable is also a leading source of folic acid, a vitamin that is important for women who might become pregnant because of its role in preventing neural tube defects in babies. Make the asparagus more appealing to younger members of your family by cooking it properly. Overcooked asparagus has a slimy texture, while undercooked asparagus has a tough texture and woody flavor.
For the best flavor, buy asparagus when it is in season. Depending on your area of the country, stores and stands sell locally grown asparagus from February to July. Choose spears that are firm and straight, not limp and wilted. Opt for thicker spears as they are more tender after cooking than thinner spears. Store the asparagus in your fridge for no longer than two days before cooking it. You can safely store asparagus for up to five days, but the sooner you use it, the better it tastes.
Wash the asparagus in cold water just before cooking it. Scrub the spears gently with a soft brush to remove any dirt or sand, then snap off the woody portion of the stalk. Because the stalk naturally breaks at the right place, this is a good, simple task for young children. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the thick portion of the stalk to slightly reduce the cooking time and prevent a woody texture on areas of the cooked asparagus.
Boiling is the simplest method for cooking asparagus. Boil asparagus stalks in a small amount of salted water for approximately five minutes. Stir-frying is another easy preparation. After you wash the asparagus, pat it dry with paper towels and cut it into small pieces. Stir-fry it in hot oil for approximately five minutes. If you’re grilling your dinner, save some space on the grill for asparagus spears. Asparagus grills in about five to 10 minutes. To test cooked asparagus for doneness, stick a knife in the thickest part of the stalk. If the knife slides in, the asparagus is done.
Serve boiled or grilled asparagus as a side dish. For the boiled asparagus, add butter or olive oil and a squirt of fresh lemon juice. Grilled asparagus tastes great when topped with Hollandaise sauce or creamy salad dressing. A creamy onion-flavored or balsamic dressing complements the asparagus nicely. Include boiled asparagus -- cut in small pieces -- in salads or risottos.
- Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board: Nutrition Information
- Mayo Clinic: Folate
- “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”; Mark Bittman; 2007
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