Growing up in the Creston Valley, asparagus has always felt like the first taste of summer. For decades Sutcliffe Farms has been growing the delicious spears, and they are available while in season at the market!
Aside from being absolutely delicious, asparagus boasts a bundle of nutritious properties. It is no secret that asparagus has a pretty evident effect on urinary production. Asparagus is extremely high in the amino acid asparagine, which is a natural diuretic. Natural diuretics can help flush toxins through urinary filtration, and prevent harmful accumulation of bacteria that could cause infection. In the body, this asparagine is converted into by-products that produce a characteristic odour, which accompanies said flushing of toxins (in other words, smelly pee is a good thing).
It is a vegetable high in micronutrients, including vitamins that act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants aid the body in protection against damaging free radicals. Having a surplus of free radicals in the body causes oxidative stress which can lead to a number of diseases, so consuming foods high in antioxidants is extremely valuable in disease prevention. One particular antioxidant in asparagus is Vitamin E, which is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it is digested in your body alongside fats.
When cooking asparagus, some methods are going to promote better nutrition retention than others. The previously mentioned antioxidants are susceptible to “leeching” out of the vegetable depending on the cooking method used. When asparagus is boiled in water, a large portion of vitamins and minerals is lost to the cooking water. To achieve a similar texture, I would recommend steaming the asparagus. This can be done using a stove top steaming basket or simply using a microwave safe container with a lid and a small mount of moisture. To fully unleash the potential of that fat soluble Vitamin E, I would recommend roasting the asparagus with a small amount of olive oil. This healthy fat will aid in the digestion of the vitamin, allowing your body to access its full benefits.
- 1 lb of Asparagus
- 1 Tbsp. of olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove of garlic (minced)
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425F. Snap off the tough ends of asparagus, and arrange them on a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, turning spears once.
Swap out the balsamic and garlic for lemon juice and rosemary, top the spears with toasted almond or grated parmesan cheese once they are done roasting. Have fun trying out some different flavour combinations, and use a light hand when seasoning. Let the asparagus shine!
Unfortunately, the asparagus season is almost over, so now is the time to preserve it for use into the rest of the year. Blanched asparagus can be frozen, and maintain an excellent texture to be used in future dishes. Letting asparagus cook in a large pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, and immediately submerging it in an ice bath for 2 to 3 minutes will keep the asparagus bright green and crisp once it is frozen. When blanching asparagus it is best to do so in small batches, maybe a pound at a time. Also, make sure to blanch asparagus when it is fresh, to guarantee the best product once frozen. It can be frozen as whole spears or chopped into one inch pieces. These pieces of asparagus can be thawed and added into salads, omelettes, or pasta dishes like the one below.
- 1 Tbsp. of olive oil
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 5 cups of chopped vegetables including frozen asparagus (cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, really anything you like works great)
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1 Tbsp. of flour mixed into a slurry with 3 Tbsp. of water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan or asiago cheese
- 2 Tbsp. of fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 3/4 lb whole wheat linguine
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook garlic until soft (about 1 minute). Add vegetables to pan, starting with vegetables that will take longer to soften (peppers, carrots, onions) cook for about 3 minutes. Add other vegetables, including asparagus peppers and cook until softened, an additional 5 minutes. Stir in flour slurry and cook for 1 minute more. Add veggie stock, milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Toss pasta with vegetables and sauce. Add pasta water, if necessary, to loosen mixture. Finish the dish with cheese, parsley and basil. (Serves 4)
If you haven’t had the chance to try some this season, it’s not too late to get down to the market and take these spears for a spin! Happy Asparagus-ing!
In Good Food,
Reede Hawton – Nutrition Rep