Thursday, April 9, 2009

BUY: Asparagus

First off - sincere apologies. I haven't kept up with my blog last few weeks. I'm not sure how many people are even out there reading it, but it's still important to me that I post more regularly than I have been. So, that said, I will try to get back on my "every other Wednesday" schedule right away!

While I was off something crazy happened - SRRING! Now, here in Calgary, Spring is relative. Yes, we have the same official start date as the rest of the world, but up until a few days ago we were still shoveling snow on a regular basis. Today though it sits at a comfortable +15 C., so I think I can safely declare that Spring has arrived.

Asparagus is certainly a vegetable that screams this change of season. Sure, it's available all year round now, but it's harvested more often in the Spring to early summer than any other time of the year, making it at it's peak in flavour and freshness. Not to mention it's far less expensive to buy vegetables in season, so now is the time to stock up on some asparagus.

Browsing the internet for some additional info, I also learned that asparagus is actually extremely high if folacin (also knows as folic acid) - 60% of our recommended daily allowance in fact! This is extremely useful information for women especially - folacin is key in preventing neural tube defects in babies during pregnancy. Known mostly to be found in green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, I actually had no idea there was such a large amount in asparagus! Of course, it is widely known that folacin needs to be consumed well before the pregnancy even occurs to have an adequate supply in the system, so it is recommended that all women in "childbearing age" consume at least 0.4mg daily. (This is also a super important vitamin for people who are not "women of childbearing age" as folic acid deficiency can lead to fatigue, poor growth and intestinal problems).

Luckily, asparagus is delicious, and we eat it quite frequently. The most common method to prepare it at our house is roasting. Simply drizzle washed and trimmed asparagus spears (the bottom of an asparagus spear is very woody - simply break off the bottom at it's "natural" point. You can also cut the bottoms, or even grate the bottom with a vegetable peeler if you prefer) with a glug or two of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss on a sheet pan and roast in 450 - 500 degree oven for 5 - 8 minutes (depending on the thickness of your spears). Shake the pan once during roasting to ensure all sides are well caramelized.

Another favorite in our family is asparagus pasta. Wash, trim, and cut a couple handfuls of asparagus into bite size pieces. On very low heat, cook a tablespoons or so of garlic with a teaspoon or so of hot pepper flakes along with 3 - 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon or so of butter (like my measurements? This is a very forgiving recipe so you can cook to your own taste). Add asparagus and gently cook until spears are tender-crisp. Toss with enough pasta for two, a handful of good quality Parmesan cheese and some freshly ground pepper. This makes an amazing side dish, or simply dinner all on it's own (has been for me on many an occasion!).

So, run to the grocery store, buy some asparagus, make yourself a tasty meal, and procreate healthy children. Sounds good to me!

Pictures and nutritional information courtesy of

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