I have many reasons to love spring, but there are certain foods that always come to mind this time of year: eggs, corned beef and cabbage and, of course, asparagus.
Growing up, the asparagus we ate came out of a can. I liked it that way, but I love fresh asparagus.
Did you know that asparagus has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years? It is a member of the lily family, which also includes such plants as onion, garlic and leeks. There are only a few varieties of asparagus, and these varieties are of two general types based on the color of the spears: white and green. The more important group has spears that become dark green in sunlight.
Asparagus is available from March through June.
Asparagus has many uses, from salads to soups and hot dishes. Before using asparagus, wash the stalks thoroughly, removing scales with a knife if necessary. Cut or break off tough, woody portions. The stalk will snap easily at this point. Scrub with a soft brush to remove sand. Leave stalks whole or cut Chinese style.
When you cook asparagus, do it just before you serve the meal. Young, tender asparagus requires only a short time to cook. My favorite way of cooking asparagus is to steam it for 10-15 minutes. The secret is to cook asparagus to the tender crisp stage, and serve while the spears are still bright green. Over-cooking, indicated by a change to dull green color, means flavor and vitamin loss.
At my house we skip the butter or margarine and just enjoy the fresh taste of asparagus.
Adapted from Ohio State University Extension
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.