The Elegance of Asparagus: How to Prepare and Cook

Brilliant green, snappy and packed with flavor, this nutritious springtime veggie is a welcome addition to any meal. Here’s everything you need to know about asparagus, from how to select the freshest spears at the grocery store to storing it for the longest shelf-life, to all of the best recipes featuring this favorite veggie.

By: Ligia Lugo

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Asparagus, as its vibrant color suggests, is a vitamin and mineral-dense vegetable. Each spear offers vital nutrients that your body needs, such as:

watercolor asparagus
  • Vitamin C, an important nutrient for a strong immune system, which helps you avoid and recover from illness and injury.
  • Vitamin K, another antioxidant, which contributes to healthy blood clotting, youthful skin and strong bones.
  • Folate, a B vitamin that’s responsible for healthy cell growth and repair.
  • Vitamin A, an important contributor to healthy immune and reproductive systems, as well as overall organ functioning.

Just a half cup serving of cooked asparagus serves up these important nutrients, plus dietary fiber and even a few grams of protein, with just 20 calories. 

How to Select the Best Asparagus

So now that you’re convinced that it’s time to add more asparagus to your diet, how do you know which spears are the best?

If the tips are soft, wilted, or have leaves missing or peeling off, the asparagus is probably too old and won’t have the same flavor or nutrition as freshly harvested produce.

Look for spears in a uniform thickness. While there isn’t any difference in taste or nutrition between thin and thick stalks, similar sized items cook at the same time. So choosing a uniform bundle will make it easier to cook back home.

Storing Asparagus

asparagusOnce you’ve chosen the finest looking asparagus on display, how do you store it to keep it fresh?

Asparagus spears love water. They dry out easily, so to keep them well hydrated, store your asparagus with the ends submerged in an inch of water. Stand the spears up straight in a glass and change the water every day or so to keep things fresh.

Cover the spears with a loose plastic bag and store the cup in the fridge for up to 4 days. However, the sooner you eat them, the better.

Just before cooking, snap the bottom inch or so off the spears. This part is often woody and can be dried out, which makes it less than pleasant to bite into.

The Best Ways to Cook Asparagus

Asparagus is an incredibly versatile vegetable. Cooked or raw, it adds brightness and delicious vegetal flavor to all kinds of dishes.

Here are some of the best food pairings and cooking techniques to highlight asparagus:

  • Add diced asparagus to your favorite wrap for a bit more crunch and brightness in your lunch. See plenty of delicious and easy plant-based wrap ideas here.
  • Serve raw or lightly steamed asparagus alongside creamy homemade hummus for a twist on traditional crudité.
  • Serve up elegant roasted asparagus with a zesty lemon ginger sauce
  • Make a fresh and summery salad with shaved asparagus, quinoa and a lemon poppy dressing.

Whether you enjoy the spears in their raw glory, steamed until they’re just wilted but still snappy, or fired on the grill, you can’t go wrong with a simple side dish of asparagus bathed in olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt.

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