Spears of Spring
Asparagus is nature’s harbinger of the newly green season.
For some, it is daffodils; for others, the lawnmower’s roar. But for the true vegetable lover, the first sure sign of spring is the appearance of asparagus in the produce aisle.
The feeling is understandable: Those tender spears combine nutritional strength with a delicate flavor admired by vegetable gourmets. This explains why people have grown asparagus for more than 2,000 years. For some it has even been something of a passion; France’s King Louis XIV had special greenhouses built so he could enjoy this springtime treat all year long.
The ancients prized aparagus medicinally as a cleansing tonic. Today we know that it’s a good source of folate, a B vitamin noted for helping to reduce birth defects and promote red blood cell development, along with vitamins B1, B6 and C. Asparagus also contains glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, as well as fiber and potassium.
When shopping for asparagus look for bright-green spears with firm, closed, compact tips. (The rarer white asparagus is the same plant covered with dirt as it grows to bleach the stems.) To store the spears properly trim a quarter-inch off the stem end and wash in warm water several times
before patting them dry. Cover the stem ends in a moist paper towel before wrapping the bunch in plastic wrap or foil, or stand them upright in two inches of cold water before wrapping.
You can also freeze asaparagus. First sort the spears by thickness—small, medium and large—before blanching in boiling water for no more than two minutes. Do not defrost before use.
Quick cooking preserves the flavor and nutritional value of asparagus. The standard side dish—lightly boiled or steamed spears dressed with a little butter or olive oil—is an all-time classic.
But asparagus can also let you play the role of kitchen show-off, such as the brunch-worthy version of scrambled eggs shown in this recipe. It also pairs well with pasta, adds color to stir-frys and takes beautifully to roasting.
You can certainly honor spring by enjoying those daffodils and firing up that mower. But also treat yourself to asparagus, the jewel of the season.
Fresh Asparagus Scramble
1 lb asparagus spears, ends trimmed
8 large eggs*
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz whipped garlic-and-herb cream cheese
1 pt cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
* Can also use 3 whole eggs and 9 egg whites.
1. Blanch asparagus in medium-sized pot of boiling salted water until just
tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Whisk eggs in large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat; add eggs. Stir until eggs are almost set, about 1 minute. Add cheese in dollops; then add tomatoes. Stir until cheese melts and eggs are softly set, about 2 minutes.
3. Cut asparagus into 3” pieces and fold into egg mixture; place on heated plate or oval ovenware.
Garnish with parsley. (Can serve an additional 2 or 3 spears of cooked asparagus on the side, as shown above.)
Serves 6. Analysis per serving: 199 calories, 12g protein, 15g fat (5g saturated), 3g fiber, 7g carbohydrate, 155 mg sodium
Source: California Asparagus Commission (www.calasparagus.com)