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home > articles > how a vegetable can lift your spear-it

How a Vegetable Can Lift Your Spear-it

Asparagus is quite versatile and is a non-fat way of getting essential nutrients and anti-oxidents. This short essay will demystify asparagus and may just give you some ideas!

Season: Asparagus from California is available from February to June, with a peak in March and April. The New Jersey crop generally comes in about the end of April, with the harvest continuing through June.

Buying: Choose stalks that are firm and of a similar size so they will cook in the same amount of time. Look for tightly closed tips, smooth skin and bright green color that extends all the way down the stalk. Avoid asparagus spears that look dried-out, wilted or woody at the base.

Storing: The best way to store asparagus is to trim a thin slice from the end of the spears and stand them upright in a glass or bowl filled with an inch of so of water. Alternately, you could dampen a paper towel and wrap it around the base of the stalk, then cover with plastic wrap. Keep the asparagus in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it—preferably within 2 to 3 days. Don't rinse until just before using.

Preparing: There are two ways to prepare asparagus for cooking. The easier method, but the one that wastes the most asparagus, is to hold a stalk with one hand at each end, and bend it until it breaks. Throw away the bottom part, which is tough, and cook the top part.

The second method preserves more of the spear by peeling away the tough skin. Cut away an inch or so from the base of each stalk or more if there's a large area that's dried out or white, then peel the stalk with a sharp knife or vegetable parer, cutting less deeply as you go up the stalk and stopping about 2 inches below the tip.

Cooking: The easiest way to cook asparagus is to bring a couple of inches of salted water to boil in a skillet wide enough to hold the spears in one layer. Place the spears in the boiling water, bring the water back to a boil and cook until the spears are just tender. Test by lifting one spear with a fork placed under the center. If there asparagus doesn't bend at all, it's not done yet. When it just begins to bend slightly, it's ready. If the ends droop, it's overdone.

Asparagus may also be steamed. The traditional method is to being an inch or two of water to boil in a tall, narrow pan. Tie the spears into bundles and stand them up in the pan. Cover the pan and cook until the spears are tender.

To microwave asparagus, arrange the spears in one layer in a shallow container, the tips toward the center. Microwave until tender, stirring once halfway through. A pound of asparagus will take 6-9 minutes for whole spears, 5-7 minutes for pieces.

Nutrition: A serving of asparagus (four spears) has about 12 calories and no fat. Asparagus is high in vitamins C, A and folic acid. It's also the best food source of gluthathion, an antioxidant that helps rid the body of toxins and may also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cancer. Eating asparagus may help improve athletic performance, thanks to high levels of rutin, a substance that increases to oxygen-bearing capacity of the blood.

Rachel Myers
Toronto, ON, Canada

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