A Is for Asparagus

by | Nov 5, 2010

I’ve decided to make one post each week about some of the lesser known—or, perhaps, lesser used—items you might find in your local grocery store. (I like to teach people stuff because I’m a giver. That’s just how I roll.)

So, welcome, class, to today’s Fresh Pick: ASPARAGUS

Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence and leads nearly all produce items in the wide array of nutrients it supplies in significant amounts for a healthy diet. It is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid. A regular serving of about 5 stalks provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folacin which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease and its wealth of nutrients, fiber and very low sodium and calorie content make asparagus a nutritionally wise choice for today’s health-conscious consumer.

Asparagus is a member of the Lily family whose spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils. Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10″ in a 24-hour period. After harvesting is done the spears grow into ferns, which produce red berries and the food and nutrients necessary for a healthy and productive crop the next season.

Select bright green asparagus with closed, compact, firm tips. (Other asparagus varieties include white asparagus—which comes from the process of etiolation, or the deprivation of light—as well as purple and “wild,” but varieties are interchangeable in recipes, with the only difference being in the color of the resultant dish.) If the tips are slightly wilted, freshen them up by soaking them in cold water. Keep fresh asparagus clean, cold and covered. Trim the stem end about 1/4 inch—or hold at base and bend until it snaps off on its own. Refrigerate and use within 2 or 3 days for best quality. To maintain freshness, wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends, or stand upright in two inches of cold water until you intend to use it.

Fresh asparagus is fantastic on its own with just a hint of other flavors, like lemon juice, chives, parsley, chervil, savory, tarragon or with a pat of butter.

For some great recipes, click here or here or try this simple side dish:

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees*. Spread out asparagus stalks on an aluminum foil-covered baking dish or cookie sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cook for 10 minutes and serve!

*If you’d prefer to boil asparagus instead, add asparagus to a pot of boiling water and cook for 7 minutes—the perfect cooking time for any boiled vegetable. Drain and add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

NOTE: Sometimes, this might happen after eating asparagus. Do not be alarmed. It is perfectly normal.


I’m Dina R. D’Alessandro, MS, RDN, CDN. I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in New York City, and I provide nutrition counseling to women.

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