Selection and storage
Asparagus spears are also known by many local names as Spragel,Spargelkraut, Asperges, Asperge Commune, Espárragos, etc.
Although one may find asparagus all around the season in the supermarkets, they are at their best and most flavorful during the spring. In Europe, its shoots sold in the shops from December till June.
Asparagus should be used as soon as possible after harvesting. Otherwise, it soon loses sweetness since most of its sugar converted into starch. Purchasing from the local farms or farmer markets would be an ideal way to enjoy them fresh.
In the markets select tender, firm, straight, smooth, uniform-sized, dark green/purple stalks with tightly closed tips. Avoid thick stalks with
broad ridges in the stems, sunken or dull-colored, as they indicate old stock and hence, off-flavored.
Since its spears perish early, they should be harvested in the morning hours when the weather is cold. After picking, immerse them in ice-cold water to remove heat, drain the water and place spears inside plastic bags. Store in the refrigerator set at 38 to 40 degrees F and 90% to 95% relative humidity. At higher temperatures, its spears tend to lose natural sugars and vitamin-C. As a result, they lose their flavor as they become tougher and begin to decay.
Preparation and serving methods
|The spears will snap where any woodiness begins. (Photo courtesy: The essential vegetarian cookbook).||Tie spears into a bundle. Cook for 2-3 minutes in boiling water with tips upward. Then just dip the tips briefly into the boiling water.|
Asparagus shoots are one of the most sought-after vegetables enjoyed in the spring.
Fresh spears are preferred in cooking. To prepare, wash them in cool running water with a gentle scrub. Tender, pencil-thin spears can be cooked directly. Thick stalks, however, peeled before being used in the recipes.
In general, asparagus spears just need brief cooking. In some households, traditional pots are employed to cook them, wherein the stalks are immersed in boiling water while tips are just allowed to steam cook.
Here are some serving suggestions:
|Bruschetta with asparagus, tomato, and cheese toppings.
Photo courtesy: rizkapb
Asparagus spears can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sautéed, stir-fried or mixed with vegetables, beans, poultry or seafood.
Steamed spears served with citrus hollandaise sauce, melted butter, parmesan or pecorino cheese in beautiful French style recipes.
Grilled spring onions and asparagus stalks smeared with macadamia nut oil is a mouth-watering appetizer.
Stir-fry its tender shoots with sesame seeds, and season with garlic, ginger,
and pepper paste.
Many restaurants in Germany offer special spargel menus during the spring season.
In general, asparagus is well tolerated, and allergic reactions are relatively rare.
Ingestion of young shoots may give an offensive smell to the urine. It is due to the metabolism of asparagusic acid, which breaks down into various sulfur-containing degradation products such as methanethiol, sulfides, etc. The condition, however, is harmless. (Medical disclaimer).
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Vegetable research and information center, University of California. (pdf-Link opens in new window).