Friday, April 30, 2010

Farmer's Market: Asparagus!

It's that time of year again when the fresh, local produce is becoming available. I am so excited! I am picking up some locally grown asparagus from the Farmer's Market later today. How about you? Can you get some local produce now? Even if it isn't local, I bet you can find some good, in-season asparagus in your grocery store.

Asparagus is a member of the lily family. Aside from being delicious, it is a great source of nutrition: 1 cup of cooked asparagus contains much of your daily value for many nutrients, including vitamin K (115%), folate (66%), vitamin C (32%), vitamin A (19%), tryptophan (16%), B1 (15%), B2 (14%), manganese (14%), B6 (11%), and 5-10% of copper, B3, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and zinc! Wow! All this, along with 3g fiber and 9g protein for only 43 calories! Hard to beat.

How do you prep and eat this stuff? Well, prep is simple. Wash it and then cut the bottom ends off. The bottom of the stalk can be more woody/fibrous. An easy way to find the point at which tenderness is compromised is to break the ends off with your hands. The stalks will naturally snap at the point where they become tougher.

You can eat asparagus raw if you like, but I like it lightly steamed (just a few minutes until it turns bright green). You can cook a bunch and then chill it in the fridge for later use. I eat it cold (with my fingers) as a snack. Great dipped in hummus, too. Or you can chop it and add it to an omelet or scrambled eggs. I like to add chopped asparagus to my salads as well. And I think asparagus goes very well with eggs, so a favorite meal of mine is steamed asparagus topped with egg salad (1 or 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped and mixed with a bit of light mayo, Dijon mustard, salt, & pepper). So filling and good! Asparagus is also really great tossed with some whole grain pasta (my favorite includes chicken breast, black olives, a bit of bacon, and Parmesan cheese). If you want to try something other than steaming, you can saute asparagus in a nonstick pan with a bit of olive oil until it is tender-crisp, then add some minced or sliced fresh garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant. A bit of salt & black pepper and you have an amazing side dish. Or you can toss the spears with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and roast it at 400 degrees on a cookie sheet until it starts to brown. Delicious!

I have a little story about asparagus, along with a recipe of sorts, that I'd like to share.

When I was in my very early 20's, I lived out in the country on a farm. All around us there were fields, and decades ago, in these fields grew asparagus. Over time all the farmland had been converted to other crops, but every spring, asparagus would sprout up in the irrigation canals and along their banks. I would take my little son, who was 2, and we would go out walking along the banks looking for asparagus to pick. My sweet little boy would point when he saw the spears poking up through the soil, and I'd cut them and stick them in a bag. When the bag was full, we'd go home and milk our goat, Katie. I'd head to the kitchen with the freshly cut asparagus and warm goat's milk and I'd make a big pot of asparagus soup for dinner. I didn't really have a recipe, per se, but it went something like this:

Melt a big lump of butter in a stock pot and add a big chopped onion. Saute the onion until it is soft. Toss a heaping spoonful of flour in the pan and stir for a minute.
Strain the milk and slowly add it to the pan, whisking to make sure there's no lumps from the flour. Bring to a simmer. Add the cleaned and chopped asparagus. Add some salt and black pepper.
Simmer and whisk occasionally until the asparagus is tender.
Carefully ladle it into the blender (not too full; it will make a huge mess if you fill it and blend hot liquid!) and puree it in batches (or use an immersion blender right in the pot). Return the soup to the pot and serve with crusty bread.

Simple and delicious!

Every time I eat asparagus, I think of those pleasant days walking the canal banks with my chubby cheeked toddler, the warm sun shining off his soft blonde ringlets and unfettered excitement shining in his bright blue eyes. He is almost 20 now and off to college. I miss him. But the memories of his childhood bring me much peace and happiness.

Enjoy the wonderful spring bounty of asparagus while it's fresh! I know I will.

18 comments:

Karen@WaistingTime said...

I like it best roasted. I cook mine on a preheated pan for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees. My husband, who will eat this despite always hating asparagus in the past, always, always comments on how it makes his ... ahem... pee smell.

Paula Rodriguez said...

Karen

I've been eating asparagus like crazy and I wondered why my pee smelled weird. I'm not crazy.

Lynn, enjoyed reading this post today. I could feel the pleasant air and sun on the back of my neck as I pictured you walking the canal in search of asparagus. Must have been lovely living next to those fields.

Steelers6 said...

Neat story!

I like asparagus grilled too.

Be well, friend. Chrissy

Andra said...

Eggs with Asparagus Soldiers!
A perfectly boiled 6-minute farm fresh egg set into an egg cup, top sliced clean off to expose the bright golden interior. Sprinkled with a pinch of kosher salt. Tender-crisp steamed asparagus, dunked into the rich, oozing yolk. Devour. Repeat.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I can see it now. Asparagus is flying off the shelves all across America, heck, around the world, because of you! LOL.

Seriously, asparagus grows along the bank of No-tellin Creek near my home. I'm grabbing the car keys and heading out with my trusty Swiss pocket knife, now.... ;O

Reese said...

Thanks for sharing that sweet memory :) I love asparagus, but hardly ever make it. Now this post has given me a craving for it!

Lori said...

We have an asparagus patch in our garden. That, and the leaf lettuce are at their peaks now.
Lori
http://deepdarkweightloss.blogspot.com/

Roxy said...

My local farmer's market opened back up this week and I am off to visit tomorrow. Asparagus is one thing I am hoping to find. I like to grill it with a little bit of lemon lime salt.

Julie said...

What a sweet story!!
I just bought some asparagus at the store today. I have a new recipe I want to try with steaming the asparagus and wrapping it in 97% fat free ham and then there is a cucumber dip for it made with greek yogurt. I'm making it Monday, can't wait!

Autumnforest said...

I so love fresh asparagus and live right near a farmer's market which is good because I have no success growing it. I steam it and rub it between towels to dry it completely, toss it with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then wrap it tightly in Saran Wrap and refrigerate. It's great cold and on salads.

Physicallee Fit said...

When we lived in North Carolina, we knew a woman who was an avid garden. They had totally redone their front and back yard and it looked like a forest wonderland.

She said that when she was a child, they had asparagus growing in their yard that her parents would MOW DOWN every spring. As an adult, she felt so bad thinking about mowing all that fresh asparagus so long ago.

I love me some asparagus.

Ice Queen said...

We already had our glut of asparagus. I ate fresh asparagus until it was coming out of my ears. And I miss is so much. But no way am I paying four clams a pound for it. So, until it goes on sale or the new crop comes in next Spring, asparagus is off my menu.

I like it steamed, roasted, sauteed and in eggs and salads, also.

Mmm... Asparagus...

Craving, now.

He, he. Yeah, the good old asparagus pee smell. lol.

✯FiTCETERA✯ said...

I just love asparagus, smell be damned! lol

I use a peeler and take off the tough skin on the bottom.

I love cooking it in coconut oil with some sea salt.
Or with balsamic vinegar and a wee bit of olive oil.
Or just steamed with a pat of butter and some sea salt.
Or in an omelet.

Asparagus soup sounds so good. I actually haven't tried that yet.

Have a fantastic weekend, Lyn!

Julie Lost and Found said...

my favorite is roasting it and drizzling olive oil and herbamere on it..it's delicious!!

Last summer, I embarked on a mission to get my kids to love vegetables. I made a HUGE deal how we were having an "adventure" tonight and were having an exotic new vegetable ASPARAGUS...I sung and danced and made a total fool of myself. I made it sound like it was the BEST THING in the world. my kids LOVED it. My 8 year old now BEGS for it in his lunch box. Weird huh? When I was a kid it made me gag! LOL

It just goes to show you, that if you are willing to make a huge deal out of it, we can get them to like it.

I love white asparagus too. First time I had it was in Paris..it was to die for. I think it was just because I was eating it in Paris though..LOL

MargieAnne said...

Love asparagus. For years we passed a growers 'Gate Sale' every time we went out. Even now if we do a trip that way I stop and buy a few Kilograms.

I cook it until just tender, (we use the microwave so cooks in it's own juice), eating some warm, the rest in the fridge. It never lasts long as I snack and nibble and eat it plain until there is none left.

georgia said...

My fave veggie! I like it plain, lightly steamed. Or cut up, sautéed with onions and garlic--YUM!

The Lass said...

Oh, so you don't even have the yellow asparagus variety over there? It's very, very good.

I love green asparagus roasted with a bit of olive oil and a bit of sugar sprinkled on top. Just when it takes color, I add a bit of balsamic vinegar and let everything cool off for a bit. So yummy!

Yellow asparagus requires peeling (but you can make really nice soup from the peelings). I put the asparagus on a double layer of tin foil, sprinkle with salt and sugar, put a few small cubes of butter over everything and roll the tin foil up into little pouches. You put those packages in the oven for about 30-45 mins, depending on the thickness of the stalks and your oven. Delicious!

We'll have a typical German meal tomorrow: Asparagus, new potatoes and boiled ham with (low fat) Sauce Hollandaise. I am very much looking forward to that.

screwdestiny said...

It's been snowing almost every day this past week and hasn't gotten above 45 degrees. No, I don't have a place to get fresh, local produce.

I do like asparagus though. When I was a kid, I didn't. It was actually one of the few vegetables I didn't like. But I tried it again a couple years ago and found out that it's quite tasty now!

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