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Eat Your Asparagus! It's Good for You!

15. July 2013

Eat Your AsparagusGrowing up, Mom fixed asparagus for dinner…a lot.  My Dad loved the green, veggie spears, so it was a mainstay in our diet.   “Eat your asparagus,” Dad demanded.  “It’s good for you.”

That may have been true.  But I hated the nasty, green vegetable.  When no one was looking, my portion often went to our poor, dog, Chuckie.  (That dog would eat anything.  Once, he ate the entire Easter ham!)

I can’t tell you exactly when my relationship with asparagus changed, but today I absolutely love the versatile vegetable packed with nutrition.   Maybe, like Brussels sprouts, asparagus is just an acquired taste.  But I think the difference is in the preparation.

For the record, my Mom was an excellent cook.  However, like every other Midwestern homemaker, Mom boiled her asparagus in water and butter until there was nothing left but green, stringy mush. 

Not until I was an adult did I get a taste of this ancient vegetable prepared al dente, or better still, roasted, parboiled or fresh in a salad.  I’ve been hooked on my former vegetable nemesis ever since!

The more I learn about the amazing asparagus, the more I love it! 

Did you know the name for asparagus – a member of the lily family comes from the Greek word meaning “shoot” or “sprout?” Now widely cultivated throughout the world, this regal vegetable is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region, where it was prized for its unique texture and alleged medicinal and aphrodisiacal qualities.  (How’s that for a health bonus?!)

Asparagus spears grow from a crown planted in sandy soils and, under ideal conditions, can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period!  The most common types are green, but you might see two others in stores, farmer’s markets and restaurants: white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier.

This giant veggie is also a nutritional rock star – high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin and vitamins A, B6 and C.  A 5-ounce serving provides 60 percent of the RDA for folic acid and is low in calories.

‘Tis the season for asparagus, so pick up a couple of bunches.  Enjoy it raw or with minimal preparation, which the Romans seemed to appreciate.  They had a saying to describe something done rapidly, “As quick as cooking asparagus!” (Sorry Mom!)

Here’s a simple, tasty and nutritious asparagus recipe I think you’ll enjoy.  Perfect for a warm, summer evening!

Spring Asparagus and White Bean Salad

Ingredients:

3 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 lb)

1 ½ cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

5 thinly sliced radishes

½ cup (2 oz) crumbled feta or goat cheese

1 medium shallot, peeled and minced

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint 

Dressing:

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1tsp grated lemon zest

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

Directions:

1. Steam asparagus, covered, 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.

2. Rinse asparagus with cold water and drain.

3. Gently combine asparagus, beans radishes, feta, shallot and fresh mint in a serving bowl.

4. Make dressing by combining lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine.

5. Pour dressing over asparagus mixture and toss gently to coat.

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.