The rather elegant asparagus in now in season (spring trough to the beginning of summer), so here we look at the varieties, how to buy, store, cook and eat it.
The rather elegant asparagus in now in season (spring trough to the beginning of summer).
Asparagus is low in calories, rich in vitamins and minerals and high in fibre. It has a high water content and is known to also be a mild diuretic.
Types of asparagus
There are 3 types of asparagus:
- green – grown in flat beds, this is the most commonly available variety. It has the strongest flavour and appears with either thin (more intense flavour) or thick (more tender) stalks.
- purple – first cultivated in Italy, this type is known to have a slightly higher sugar content and be more tender than the green variety
- white – grown under mounds of soil, preventing photosynthesis from taking place, thereby preventing the production of chlorophyll. These are more tender and have a milder flavour
How to select asparagus
At this time of year, all three varieties are available in farmers markets and shops. When buying, look for firm, straight stalks, as they should not look dried and woody. The buds on the tips should be closed, as once they start opening out, they are no longer fresh and will taste woody. Select uniformity in the thickness of the stalks to ensure even cooking.
How to store it
Ideally, asparagus should be consumed on the day of purchase for the best flavour, but they can be stored in the fridge: wrapped in damp kitchen paper and in a plastic bag. Alternatively, they can be stored in a cool place, stalks down in a glass of water, and covered with a plastic bag. They should last 2-3 days.
How to cook it
Known to be tender and sweet, asparagus cooks very quickly. The Romans even coined the phrase ‘faster than cooking asparagus’. Shorter cooking times are better to preserve the nutrients. Ideally, cooked asparagus should have tender tips, and their stalks, a slight crunch. First, prepare by washing and trimming the woody ends of the stalks. There are several ways to cook asparagus:
- raw – tender stalks can be sliced with a mandolin for a salad
- boiled – bring salted water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes
- steamed – the most common method in Italy, where a special covered pan is used to keep the asparagus upright in a small amount of water so the stalks boil at a higher temperature and the tips (being more tender) are steamed.
- grill, roasted or BBQ – this is more suitable for thicker stalks as they won’t dry out as easily. Brush the asparagus with olive oil before cooking. This will keep them moist and help to caramelise them
What does it go well with?
Asparagus goes very well with eggs, cheese, creamy sauces, fish and meats.
It is perfect as a side dish:
- with hollandaise sauce
- melted butter, salt and pepper
- sliced finely in a salad
- with grated cheese e.g. parmesan/pecorino
- wrapped in cold sliced meats
As a main course:
- with eggs – e.g. poached, in a frittata
- in a risotto
- with pasta
- in a quiche
- baked with cheese
We love asparagus! These are great tips!!
What a great post for this time of year when asparagus is in season (here in the Northeast US). My favorite way to cook asparagus is either roasting or grilling.
Derek @ Dad With A Pan
Asparagus goes great on the grill! A little olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper and you’ve got your self an amazing side dish!
This is a great tutorial. I hated asparagus when I was growing up. When I was 17 I had a friend who taught me how to make it properly and I was hooked! I didn’t realize my mom was over cooking it!
We ALL love asparagus here. I love it roasted, but my first choice is grilled. So many great ways to enjoy this delicious gem.
Alicia Taylor at Taylorlife.com
I love asparagus. One of my favorite recipes is an oven roasted asparagus risotto. Thanks for these tips. It’s a pretty finicky veggie.
Thank you so much for sharing all this info. I love the tips about storing and preparing asparagus. Very useful. Sharing this for sure!
Helen | Fuss Free Flavours
My favourite asparagus is the purple variety, and I just like it lightly steamed. Perfect with a fish dish and a light sauce. Something rather delicious about this interesting vegetable, and I find it is a good addition to many a meal. Makes delicious soup.
I adore asparagus and when in season I tend to stalk the local markets looking for the knobbly stubby but delectable purple variety. My favourite way to enjoy it is steamed and dipped in best butter. A proper treat! And if being fancy, with homemade hollandaise. Again, butter!
It’s always great to get back to basics and check how we cook food. Very informative thank you
Thanks for these tips! I think cooking asparagus can be a challenge for many. I am saving this post for sure! Thank you! Luci’s Morsels | fashion. food. frivolity.