Join us as we Salute Spring with a week-long series featuring the finest fruits and vegetables of the season. Written by Katie Goodman
Spring is here and so is one of my favorite vegetables – Asparagus!
Asparagus has been one of my favorite vegetables for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I recall times and the family dinner table where my siblings would sneak their stalks onto my plate as my mother’s back was turned.
I remember eating asparagus and loving it even before entering kindergarten, which is saying something because I’ve yet to get my kindergarten-er to try even a bite!
Before you go purchasing asparagus, there are a few things to consider: Asparagus Season; Selecting and Trimming; and Simple Ways to Enjoy Asparagus.
If you’re a backyard gardener, you may want to consider adding asparagus if you have room to spare. Because asparagus is a perennial, you plant it once and enjoy it for many years to come (of course, as long as you don’t move). But you will have to be patient. It is recommended that you don’t harvest asparagus during the first couple of years to allow time for the plant to develop a strong root system.
Fresh asparagus is at its peak between February and June, but that varies according to location. If you aren’t sure when asparagus is at its peak in your area, check out this handy Peak-Season Produce Map.
How to Select Asparagus
- Select spears that are brightly colored, straight, round, and without strong odor. Colors may vary: green, white, or purple.
- The tips of the asparagus should be tightly closed.
- Look for asparagus that is uniform in thickness. This will allow for even cooking.
Note: Asparagus thickness does not affect the taste, but is rather a personal preference. Some prefer pencil thin asparagus stalks while others prefer thicker. Choose what suits you best.
How to Trim Asparagus
all photos by Katie Goodman
Asparagus stems often have a tough, woody part that needs to be removed. I find this bend and snap method simple and more accurate than trimming the ends with a knife.
To easily remove that portion, hold the asparagus at its mid-point with one hand. Using the thumb and index finger of your other hand, hold the asparagus about an inch from the bottom.
Then, simply bend the stalk and it will snap on it’s own. Discard the small portion and reserve the remaining stalk for cooking. It might seem like waste, but you don’t want to eat the tough portion anyway – it doesn’t taste very good.
5 Simple Ways to Enjoy Asparagus this Spring
Asparagus is a very versatile vegetable and is often my go-to for a vegetable side this time of year.
1. Stir-Fried – I love how adaptable stir-fry is to whatever vegetables you have in the refrigerator. Snap asparagus into 1 – 2 inch pieces for asparagus so it cooks more quickly. Go vegetarian or use whatever meat you have on hand: chicken, shrimp or beef.
2. Grilled or Roasted – Grilled or roasted asparagus is my favorite way to cook this vegetable as a simple side. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then, just before serving add lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
3. In a Frittata – Using my Easy Frittata Formula, you can cook up all kinds of creative flavor combinations with asparagus as the star. Frittatas are easy meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
4. In Risotto or Fried Rice – Fried Rice and Risotto are filling dishes that can serve as sides or the main dish. Next time, try adding asparagus to your rice dishes.
5. Puréed – Puréed might not be the method you think of first, but asparagus is absolutely delicious in this mild, spring soup.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Weather can be finicky during spring and although we’re usually craving lighter foods we might need something a little more warming on cooler days. Give this Cream of Asparagus soup a try next time your spring weather takes a dip.
adapted from Soups, Stews and Chilis
- 1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup cleaned and chopped leeks
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoons)
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 pounds trimmed green asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- dash nutmeg
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, to taste
- fresh Parmesan, for serving (if desired)
- Melt the butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When melted, add the leeks and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute.
- Stir in the flour, mixing well with the butter, and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the white wine. Make sure to scrape up any browned bits. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add 3 cups of broth, whisking to eliminate any lumps. Bring liquid to a simmer over medium-heat. Add the asparagus pieces and the bay leaf. Reduce to medium-low heat and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender.
- Discard the bay leaf. Add the mixture to a food processor, working in batches if needed, and purée until soup is very smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of broth, if needed.
- Pour the soup back into the pot over low heat. Stir in the cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice. Heat the soup for 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, and add extra liquid until preferred consistency is reached. If desired, grate a bit of fresh Parmesan on top.
Asparagus is a very popular spring vegetable. Does it make your top three favorites?