Although available year-round, spring (March through June) is the best time to find an abundance of fresh asparagus at your local supermarket. Like garlic and onions, asparagus is an edible member of the lily family, prized for its great flavor and nutritional value.
Most of the asparagus found in U.S. markets is green, but white asparagus is the popular choice in Europe. Surprisingly, they are not different varieties – the white asparagus is simply grown in darkness and consequently has no green pigment (a.k.a. chlorophyll). As far as the flavor is concerned, it's said that white asparagus is a bit sweeter.
Buying and Storing Asparagus
When shopping for asparagus, look for smooth stalks with tightly closed buds. Avoid any stalks that look shriveled or wrinkled. Depending on the thickness, between twelve and twenty spears equal about one pound of asparagus.
As soon as you bring asparagus home from the store, trim about half an inch from the bottom of the stalks and place them upright in a container with an inch or two of water in the bottom. Just like a bouquet of flowers, asparagus can wilt if it goes without moisture for too long.
It is best to cook your asparagus the same day you buy it, but it can be stored for up to three days if necessary. Just loosely cover the container with a plastic bag and refrigerate it. You can also wrap the bottom of the trimmed spears with wet paper towels and seal them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, although the first storage method yields better results.
Before cooking, trim off any woody ends (don't use the “snapping” method – you'll waste too much of the spear) and unless your spears are very slender, peel a bit of the outer skin off toward the bottom of the stalk. This helps to ensure tenderness and the spears will cook more evenly.
Tip: 1 pound of asparagus = 16 to 20 large spears, 21 to 26 medium spears, 27 to 36 thin spears or about 3 cups of 1-inch pieces
Easy Roasted Asparagus
Preheat the oven to 400°F and coat a shallow baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Wash and trim 1-1/2 lbs of medium asparagus spears.
Place 2 tablespoons of butter in the center of the prepared baking sheet and place it in the oven until melted. Arrange the asparagus spears in a single layer on the pan and using tongs, toss the asparagus to coat completely with the melted butter, then season lightly with salt and pepper.
Roast until the spears are tender, 12 to 15 minutes and serve immediately.
More Asparagus Recipes
- Asparagus and Lemon Risotto
- Pasta Primavera with Asparagus and Ham
- Asparagus with Balsamic Brown Butter
- Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Asparagus
- Asparagus with Lemon-Butter
Asparagus is low in calories (only about 5 per spear), is rich in folate and contains moderate amounts of vitamins C, A and E, potassium and dietary fiber.