The name asparagus comes from the Greek word meaning “sprout” or “shoot.” Asparagus has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years, though growing this vegetable is no easy task. A crop takes two or more years to become established, and each stage of the process involves manual labor by workers. Once established, though, this popular vegetable can grow up to seven inches in a single day!
These vitamin-rich stalks boost your health in numerous ways. Check out our tips and tasty recipe for easy ways to enjoy this mighty superfood.
Asparagus is a great source of B vitamins, including vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2, niacin, choline, vitamin B6, folic acid and pantothenic acid. B vitamins help your body transform the energy you get from food into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the kind of energy your cells need to keep everything from your brain cells to your nerve cells in tip-top shape. At only about 26 calories per cup, asparagus serves up 67 percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C, vitamin A for eye health, high levels of vitamin K for strong and healthy bones, as well as a healthy dose of fiber and other necessary nutrients.
Choose firm, bright-green stalks with tightly closed tips. Similarly-sized spears will cook at the same rate, so look for bunches where the stalks appear to be about the same diameter. Jumbo spears are just as tender as thinner ones – it is actually the bright green hue that determines tenderness. The greener the spears, the more tender they will be.Thicker spears are perfect for throwing on the grill or roasting in the oven, while thinner spears are best to cut and use in dishes such as stir-fries.
How To Cook
Asparagus can be enjoyed a number of ways: steaming, grilling and roasting to name a few. Cooking times vary depending on the diameter of your spears. Here are a few cooking methods to try!
Microwave (3-5 minutes): Arrange asparagus in a microwave-safe dish with tips facing towards the center. Add a very small amount of water to the bottom of the dish – just enough so that the spears will steam. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, leaving one corner open to allow steam to escape. Microwave on high for 3-5 minutes. Let stand about three minutes before serving.
Stir-Fry (3-5 minutes): Cut asparagus spears diagonally into 1-inch pieces, taking care to keep the tips whole. Heat a tablespoon of your favorite oil that stands up well to heat (sesame oil is a good choice). Add asparagus and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes.
On The Grill (8-10 minutes): Coat extra-large asparagus spears with olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place directly on the grill, turning several times until spears become tender.
Instead of using a knife to trim asparagus spears, snap off the bottom of each spear one by one. The stalk will break where it naturally begins to get tough.
What’s That Smell?
Depending on which study you read, between 22 percent and 50 percent of the population report having foul-smelling urine after eating asparagus. The odor is thought to be due to a sulfur-containing compound called methanethiol that is produced as asparagus is digested. For years, scientists weren’t sure if only some people produced the smell or if the odor could only be detected by some people. Recent studies discovered that it was, in fact, a genetic mutation in the olfactory receptors, allowing some to identify this distinct smell while others are not able.
Green Versus White Asparagus
White asparagus is grown underground. The spears are covered by mounded dirt so that they’re not exposed to light (a process known as etiolation). Without light, the plant can’t produce chlorophyll and therefore, it is kept from turning green.
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