Spear Some Asparagus

A powerhouse of nutrients, asparagus is a super source of folic acid, a B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects and aids in the formation of blood cells and DNA. This member of the lily family is a good source of other B vitamins—B1, B2, and B6—and offers fiber and potassium as well. It also contains health-enhancing phytonutrients that may protect against disease. Feel free to indulge—a serving of five succulent spears has 20 calories, no fat or cholesterol, and very little sodium. A Versatile Veggie One of the few vegetables grown as a perennial, this star of spring is making appearances as a side dish or in appetizers, soups, salads, stir-fries, casseroles, omelets, and more. Look for firm, bright-green stalks with tight tips. If spears are wrapped in rubber bands, remove and then trim a little off the stems. Store spears standing in a tall glass in the fridge with an inch or two of water, covered loosely with a plastic bag. Or put a damp paper towel on the stem ends and store in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Cook these gems as soon as you can to enjoy full flavor and nutrients, though they’ll keep, refrigerated, for three or four days. Asparagus can be eaten raw. Rinse well, especially the tips, since this veggie grows in sandy soil. Snap or cut off the tough ends, and serve with dip or vinaigrette. If you prefer asparagus cooked, select spears of similar diameter to cook evenly, then trim by bending stalks until the woody part breaks off. Consult our chart for ways to prepare asparagus, and then try our recipes to enjoy the best of the season’s harvest. Did You Know? Sunlight-deprived white asparagus, preferred in Europe, has less vitamin C than green, which generally has greater concentrations of minerals, too. Cooking Tips Method Preparation Cooking Time Steam Place spears in vegetable steamer over 3 inches of boiling water, cover. 5 to 8 minutes Boil Trim ends slightly and place in boiling water. 4 to 5 minutes Roast Toss spears in olive oil and garlic. Lay spears on a baking pan; turn several times while cooking. 20 to 25 minutes at 375° Stir-fry Trim spears, cut on an angle in half-inch pieces; stir-fry with chopped garlic in olive oil. 3 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat Microwave For whole spears, arrange the tips in the center. Add 1/4 cup water, cover tightly, and cook at full power. For spears, 4 to 7 minutes; for cut asparagus, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir halfway through cooking time.